Torosyan v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Decision Date04 July 1995
Docket NumberNo. 15146,15146
Citation234 Conn. 1,662 A.2d 89
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
Parties, 64 USLW 2079, 10 IER Cases 1313 Anushavan G. TOROSYAN v. BOEHRINGER INGELHEIM PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.

John C. King, Hartford, with whom were Allyn M. Carnam, Ridgefield, and, on the brief, Karen P. Blado and Bruce W. Raphael, Hartford, for appellant (defendant).

Martin A. Gould, with whom was Nancy E. Gould, Hartford, for appellee (plaintiff).

Before PETERS, C.J., and BORDEN, BERDON, NORCOTT and KATZ, JJ.

PETERS, Chief Justice.

The principal issue in this appeal is whether there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court's factual determinations of defamation and breach of an implied contract of employment. The plaintiff, Anushavan Torosyan, brought this action alleging that the defendant, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., had terminated his employment in violation of an express contract, an implied contract and public policy, and that it had defamed him. After a court trial, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff only on the counts alleging breach of an implied contract and defamation. The defendant appealed from the judgment of the trial court to the Appellate Court, and we transferred the appeal to this court pursuant to Practice Book § 4023 and General Statutes § 51-199(c). We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The trial court found the following facts. The plaintiff was employed as a chemist by the defendant beginning in November, 1982. Because of representations made to the plaintiff in his preemployment interviews and in an employee manual given to the plaintiff on his first day of work, there was an implied contract between the parties that the plaintiff's employment could be terminated only for cause. On May 17, 1985, the plaintiff's supervisors falsely accused the plaintiff of having falsified an expense request form. The defendant then terminated the plaintiff's employment without cause. The plaintiff made extensive efforts to seek other employment, but he was unable to earn an equivalent salary at another job. Because of the defendant's acts, the plaintiff experienced humiliation, embarrassment and damage to his reputation. The plaintiff suffered economic damages for the loss of wages between his discharge and the end of 1992 in the amount of $146,595, and noneconomic damages in the amount of $45,000. Additional facts will be discussed as necessary.

The trial concluded on January 10, 1992. The trial court issued its first memorandum of decision, reaching only the issue of liability, on January 25, 1993. The trial court issued a supplemental memorandum of decision on the issue of damages on April 15, 1993.

On appeal from the judgment of the trial court, the defendant makes five claims, four of which are based on the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's findings. In particular, the defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence of: (1) an implied contract that the employment of the plaintiff could be terminated only for cause; (2) a breach of that contract; (3) defamation; and (4) damages. In addition, the defendant argues that the jurisdiction of the trial court expired before it decided the case, because the defendant had not knowingly and voluntarily waived the temporal limit on the trial court's jurisdiction that is contained in General Statutes § 51-183b. 1 We reject all of the defendant's claims.

I

We first address the defendant's claim that the jurisdiction of the trial court to decide the case had expired prior to the court's issuance of its two memoranda of decision. The defendant's claim is based on § 51-183b, which requires a trial court to decide a case within 120 days of the conclusion of trial, unless the parties waive the requirement. The defendant concedes that it declared its intent to waive the statutory requirement three times--at 120, 240 and 360 days after trial--and that both decisions were issued within 120 days of the third waiver. The defendant contends, however that when it provided the third waiver on January 8, 1993, it understood, from information received from the clerk of the court, that the court would render a decision within ten days from the issuance of that waiver. The defendant further contends that "the clerk did not inform the parties that the decision which the court would be rendering would only address liability, nor that the court intended to continue the matter" for a subsequent decision as to damages. Had it known that the trial court would decide the case after January 18, 1993, and would do so in two separate memoranda, the defendant asserts, it would not have provided the third waiver. Therefore, the defendant argues, the third waiver was not knowing and voluntary. Because the waiver was not knowing and voluntary, the defendant concludes, it was invalid, leaving the trial court without jurisdiction to decide the case. We disagree.

There is no requirement that a waiver pursuant to § 51-183b be knowing and voluntary in the constitutional sense in order for the trial court to retain jurisdiction to decide the case. Although a "late judgment ... implicates the trial court's power to continue to exercise jurisdiction over the parties before it"; Waterman v. United Caribbean, Inc., 215 Conn. 688, 692, 577 A.2d 1047 (1990); we repeatedly have held that the statutory time limit may be waived merely by the parties' failure to object to the trial court's exercise of jurisdiction. Id., at 692-93, 577 A.2d 1047; Gordon v. Feldman, 164 Conn. 554, 556-57, 325 A.2d 247 (1973); Borden v. Westport, 112 Conn. 152, 154, 151 A. 512 (1930); Cheshire Brass Co. v. Wilson, 86 Conn. 551, 560, 86 A. 26 (1913). The standards for a waiver pursuant to § 51-183b are therefore wholly unlike those governing the waiver of a constitutional right. Cf. Molinas v. Commissioner of Correction, 231 Conn. 514, 523-24, 652 A.2d 481 (1994).

Moreover, even assuming that a waiver of the 120 day time limit would be invalid if secured by material misrepresentations or fraud, we could not conclude that the third waiver was so secured in this case. The defendant raised its claim about the third waiver directly to us, without first moving in the trial court to set aside the judgment. Cf. Waterman v. United Caribbean, Inc., supra, 215 Conn. at 690, 577 A.2d 1047; Neyland v. Board of Education, 195 Conn. 174, 176-77 and n. 4, 487 A.2d 181 (1985); Sanchez v. Prestia, 29 Conn.App. 157, 159, 612 A.2d 824, cert. denied, 224 Conn. 913, 617 A.2d 167 (1992); Ippolito v. Ippolito, 28 Conn.App. 745, 748-49, 612 A.2d 131, cert. denied, 224 Conn. 905, 615 A.2d 1047 (1992). As a result, the trial court made no evidentiary findings concerning the extent to which, or the circumstances in which, the parties had consented to extend the trial court's jurisdiction. We must review the defendant's claim, therefore, only on the basis of the pleadings and the evidence in the record on appeal. That record does not support the defendant's claim that any material misrepresentations were made.

The only item in the record relating to the defendant's third waiver of the 120 day limit is the waiver letter itself. That letter makes no reference to the defendant's supposed understanding that the trial court was going to decide the case within ten days. Indeed, the letter states on its face that the defendant "hereby waives the one hundred and twenty (120) day requirement ... to the extent of an additional one hundred and twenty (120) days in which to render judgment." (Emphasis added.) Both the initial and the supplemental memoranda of decision were issued within that additional 120 day period. Moreover, nothing in the record suggests that there were any limits imposed on the trial court's discretion, within that period, to issue two separate memoranda of decision, one addressing liability and one addressing damages. There is similarly no allegation that the issuance of those separate memoranda prejudiced the defendant. In sum, we are unpersuaded that the trial court exceeded its jurisdiction.

II

We next review the trial court's finding that there was an implied contract between the parties providing that the employment of the plaintiff could be terminated only for cause. We conclude that the trial court's finding was not clearly erroneous.

The following additional facts are relevant to this claim. Prior to November, 1982, the plaintiff was employed by the California Bionuclear Corporation as a radiochemist. In late July, 1982, the plaintiff came to Ridgefield at the defendant's invitation and expense, for job interviews with five of the defendant's employees. At several of the interviews, the plaintiff informed the defendant's employees that he was seeking "long-term" employment, and that he did not want to move his family from California unless the defendant could guarantee him job security. In response, one interviewer told the plaintiff that if the plaintiff did a good job, the defendant would "take care" of him. Another interviewer told the plaintiff that he hoped that the plaintiff would stay forever and that the plaintiff would have the opportunity to examine the company's employee manual to determine whether it provided the guarantees that he sought. 2 These oral representations were material to the plaintiff's decision, in late August, 1982, to accept, by telephone, an offer to take a position with the defendant as a radiochemist.

On August 31, 1982, the defendant wrote to the plaintiff, stating that "[t]his letter confirms our offer to you for employment as Biochemist III at an initial salary of $30,000 per year." Although the letter from the defendant further represented that the defendant would provide the plaintiff with various fringe benefits, it did not state that the plaintiff's employment would be terminable only for cause. The letter also did not state, however, that it contained all the terms of the...

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