State Farm Life and Acc. Assur. Co. v. Jackson

Decision Date17 August 1982
Citation188 Conn. 152,448 A.2d 832
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Daniel R. Schaefer, Asst. Atty. Gen., Hartford, with whom were David M. Teed, Asst. Atty. Gen., and, on the brief, Carl R. Ajello, Atty. Gen., and Barney Lapp, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellant (defendant in each case).

Joseph G. Lynch, Hartford, and Mark B. Seiger, Waterford, with whom, on the brief, were Richard C. Tynan and Timothy W. Donahue, Hartford, for appellee (plaintiff in each case).


SHEA, Associate Justice.

The defendant insurance commissioner has appealed to this court from judgments deciding the issues for the three plaintiffs, which are insurance companies related to each other under the State Farm aegis selling different forms of insurance protection. Each plaintiff had separately appealed to the trial court from the action of the defendant in imposing restrictions upon the renewal of its license to do business in this state. These licenses were renewed effective on May 1, 1976, in accordance with General Statutes § 38-20, 1 which also provides for their expiration on the first day of May each year succeeding the date of issuance. Since the applicable expiration date, May 1, 1977, for the three licenses has long passed we raised the question of mootness suo motu and have afforded the parties the opportunity to address that issue in brief and in argument. All of the parties maintain that the three cases, which present the same issues and have been consolidated for the purpose of this appeal, are not moot. After due consideration we have reached the contrary conclusion and dismiss the appeal.

The restriction imposed by the defendant upon the licenses issued on May 1, 1976, limited the activities of the plaintiffs in this state to the renewal of insurance policies previously issued to Connecticut residents and to other policyholders who might later come to reside in this state. This action of the commissioner resulted from a controversy over the practices of the plaintiffs in soliciting business in Connecticut, particularly whether they were obligated to do so more actively. The effect of the restriction was to prohibit the plaintiffs from writing any new insurance business in Connecticut.

The plaintiffs claimed in the trial court that the commissioner had no "just cause" to impose the restriction under the authority of the licensing statute, § 38-20, and also made several claims of unconstitutionality. The trial court sustained their appeals, however, upon the more limited ground that the commissioner's policy of compelling insurance companies licensed to do business in Connecticut to serve all residents of the state could be implemented only by the issuance of an appropriate regulation in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, General Statutes § 4-168.

In appealing from the decision of the trial court the commissioner maintains that his action in restricting the plaintiffs' licenses did not require the prior promulgation of a regulation. His further contention is that the case should have been remanded in accordance with his pretrial motion, as authorized by General Statutes § 4-183, for the presentation of additional evidence pertaining to the reasons for imposing the restrictions. On the other hand, the position of the plaintiffs before us is that the record sufficiently discloses the basis for the commissioner's action, that a regulation was an essential preliminary, and that the licensing authority created in § 38-20 does not include the power to impose conditions upon the renewal of a license.

"It is a well-settled general rule that the existence of an actual controversy is an essential prerequisite to appellate jurisdiction; it is not the province of appellate courts to decide moot questions, disconnected from the granting of actual relief or from the determination of which no practical relief can follow." Reynolds v. Vroom, 130 Conn. 512, 515, 36 A.2d 22 (1944). Although they concede the expiration on May 1, 1977, of the licenses which are the subject matter of the litigation, the parties separately advance several reasons to support their joint position that a real dispute still survives and that the case is not moribund for mootness.

The commissioner argues that the judgments of the trial court in sustaining the appeals implicitly require him to issue future licenses to the plaintiffs on an unrestricted basis. No such construction of the judgments, which by their terms merely sustain the appeals relating solely to the 1976-1977 licenses, is warranted. Nothing in the record suggests the judgments had any effect but to vitiate the limitations upon those licenses for the period during which they were effective or until some further action of the commissioner. Reference has been made to a separate suit brought by the plaintiffs when the commissioner attempted to conduct a hearing regarding the renewal of their licenses in April 1977. In that proceeding the court found that any such hearing was in violation of the stipulations of the parties made in these cases before the trial court that, pending their outcome, the plaintiffs could continue to operate in this state as they had done prior to May 1, 1976, when the restrictions were imposed. The temporary injunction issued by the court to enforce the stipulations by its terms will expire upon the disposition of this litigation. This order, therefore, can have no further effect and presents no barrier to a declaration of mootness.

The commissioner next points to the enactment of amendments to § 38-20 effectuated by Public Acts 1981, No. 81-101, §§ 7(a) and 7 (b) effective October 1, 1981. 2 One amendment requires an insurer applying for a license to "demonstrate an orderly pattern of growth in its marketing territories in the geographic region and an expertise in marketing and servicing the lines of insurance it desires to write." Public Acts 1981, No. 81-101, § 7(a). Recognizing, perhaps, the significance of that provision upon the present quarrel over the existence of any duty on the part of a licensed company to solicit business actively, the commissioner at this time argues that the amendment does not apply to the renewal of a license. This occasion is inappropriate for a resolution of that question because the plaintiffs presumably take the same position and because a significant consideration in determining the issue would be any regulation concerning renewals which the commissioner may adopt 3 as authorized by another amendment, Public Acts 1981, No. 81-101, § 7(b). That amendment provides that "[t]he commissioner shall adopt regulations ... specifying the information and evidence that an insurance company desiring to obtain or renew a license to do an insurance business shall submit and the requirements with which it shall comply." Public Acts 1981, No. 81-101, § 7(b). This enactment also removes one of the principal objections raised by the commissioner to the conclusion of the trial court that the policy which he sought to enforce by issuing limited licenses to the plaintiffs should first have been the subject of a regulation. He contends that he had no authority to issue regulations prior to this amendment.

The principal concern of the commissioner in contesting a dismissal for mootness appears to be whether any regulation could be applied retroactively to the claimed unethical conduct of the plaintiffs in breaching certain commitments said to have been made to him. This reluctance to let bygones be bygones where ethical principles may be involved may be commendable but does not by itself entitle him to a resolution of the issue by this court, even if that were possible on the present state of the record, which it is not. The parties concede that we cannot now resolve that issue because of the absence of any evidentiary hearing. Unless such a determination would provide the basis for action by the commissioner at some future licensing proceeding the situation would be one where "no practical relief can follow." Reynolds v. Vroom, supra. Past conduct of an applicant may reflect present character and, therefore, be a pertinent, though not necessarily controlling, consideration in a licensing proceeding. The relevance of any misconduct of these plaintiffs, which are corporate entities likely to have undergone some personnel changes in the six years which have passed since this action was brought, to their current qualifications for insurance licenses can more readily be determined at a...

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6 cases
  • Arnold Bernhard and Co., Inc. v. Planning and Zoning Com'n of Town of Westport
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • August 7, 1984
    ...(1981); Accurate Forging Corporation v. UAW Local No. 1017, 189 Conn. 24, 26, 453 A.2d 769 (1983); State Farm Life & Accident Assurance Co. v. Jackson, 188 Conn. 152, 156, 448 A.2d 832 (1982); Rosnick v. Zoning Commission, 172 Conn. 306, 308-10, 374 A.2d 245 (1977); Reynolds v. Vroom, 130 C......
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    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • June 28, 1988
    ...(1985); Accurate Forging Corporation v. UAW Local No. 1017, 189 Conn. 24, 26, 453 A.2d 769 (1983); State Farm Life & Accident Assurance Co. v. Jackson, 188 Conn. 152, 156, 448 A.2d 832 (1982); CEUI v. CSEA, 183 Conn. 235, 246, 439 A.2d 321 (1981). "In the absence of an actual and existing c......
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    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • August 18, 1987
    ...(1985); Accurate Forging Corporation v. UAW Local No. 1017, 189 Conn. 24, 26, 453 A.2d 769 (1983); State Farm Life & Accident Assurance Co. v. Jackson, 188 Conn. 152, 156, 448 A.2d 832 (1982); CEUI v. CSEA, 183 Conn. 235, 246, 439 A.2d 321 (1981). 'In the absence of an actual and existing c......
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    ...Recovery Authority, 177 Conn. 472, 474-75, 418 A.2d 906 (1979); the insurance commissioner; State Farm Life & Accident Assurance Co. v. Jackson, [188 Conn. 152, 152-60, 448 A.2d 832 (1982)]; and the juvenile court. Maloney v. State, 179 Conn. 309, 310, 426 A.2d 288 (1979). In each instance,......
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