Wall Sys., Inc. v. Pompa, SC 19734

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtROGERS, C.J.
Citation324 Conn. 718,154 A.3d 989
Parties WALL SYSTEMS, INC. v. William POMPA et al.
Decision Date07 March 2017
Docket NumberSC 19734

324 Conn. 718
154 A.3d 989

WALL SYSTEMS, INC.
v.
William POMPA et al.

SC 19734

Supreme Court of Connecticut.

Argued December 13, 2016
officially released March 7, 2017


154 A.3d 993

Benjamin M. Wattenmaker, with whom, on the brief, was John M. Wolfson, for the appellant-appellee (plaintiff).

Gerald A. Del Piano, with whom was P. Jo Anne Burgh, for the appellees-appellants (named defendant et al.).

Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Eveleigh, McDonald, Espinosa and Robinson, Js.

ROGERS, C.J.

324 Conn. 721

The primary issue raised by this appeal and cross appeal is the range of monetary remedies available to an employer once it has proven that its employee breached his common-law duty of loyalty. The plaintiff, Wall Systems, Inc., appeals from the judgment of the trial court awarding it damages of $43,200, plus statutory interest and attorney's fees, after concluding that the defendant, William Pompa, had breached his duty of loyalty by working simultaneously for the plaintiff and for a competitor, and further, by accepting three kickbacks from a subcontractor in connection with his work for the plaintiff. The court, as

324 Conn. 722

part of its remedy, imposed a constructive trust on a bank account held jointly by the defendant and his wife, Jill Pompa.1

On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the trial court, in fashioning a remedy for the defendant's breach of loyalty, improperly declined to order that the defendant forfeit all of the compensation he had received during the period in question, both from the plaintiff and from its competitor. The defendant responds that the court's ruling in this regard was a proper exercise of its discretion, but he claims in the cross appeal that the damages award, in other respects, lacked evidentiary support. Jill Pompa contends that the court's imposition of a constructive trust on the joint bank account was unjustified because there was no proof that she had participated in any of the defendant's wrongdoing or that the monies gained from that wrongdoing had been deposited in the account. We conclude that the trial court's award of damages had sufficient evidentiary support and that the court's refusal to order additional monetary relief was an appropriate exercise of its discretion, but that the court's imposition of a constructive trust on the joint bank account was not warranted on the evidence presented. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.

154 A.3d 994

The following facts, which either were found by the trial court or are not disputed, are relevant to the appeal. The plaintiff is a building contractor comprised of various divisions. The defendant began working for the plaintiff in or around 1995, when the company was under different management, and ultimately became the head of its exterior insulation finish systems division.2 As division head, the defendant's duties included

324 Conn. 723

finding the plaintiff jobs with general contractors, estimating and bidding jobs, hiring and negotiating with subcontractors, obtaining materials, overseeing work, ensuring proper billing, and arranging payment for subcontractors. The defendant was considered part of the plaintiff's management team. He was well compensated by the plaintiff, receiving a base salary plus annual bonuses. From 2005 to 2010, the defendant received a total of approximately $894,000 in compensation from the plaintiff.

Among the subcontractors working regularly for the plaintiff, who were hired and supervised by the defendant, were MK Stucco, LLC (MK Stucco), and B–Jan Stucco, LLC (B–Jan). MK Stucco was owned by Michael Kowalczyk, and B–Jan was co-owned by Michael Bochenek and his father.

In 2005, Richard Valerio, who previously had worked for the plaintiff as an employee and a subcontractor, became the plaintiff's owner. In the years that followed, the defendant received less compensation than that to which he believed he was entitled, leading to a breakdown in the employer-employee relationship.

Because he was dissatisfied with his reduced income from the plaintiff, the defendant began to work for MK Stucco as an independent contractor, doing estimating work for jobs that MK Stucco then would bid on. From 2005 to 2010, the defendant received a total of approximately $89,782 in compensation from MK Stucco for this work.3 The defendant never informed Valerio that he was working for MK Stucco, nor did he ask permission to do so. Some of the jobs that the defendant estimated for MK Stucco were jobs on which the plaintiff also submitted bids.4

324 Conn. 724

In the spring of 2010, Valerio became suspicious, believing that the defendant was working against company interests. Around that time, Bochenek informed Valerio that the defendant was demanding kickbacks from the plaintiff's subcontractors, in essence, increasing the cost of their jobs by adding extra work to their contracts, then demanding that one half of the additional amount paid by the plaintiff be returned, in cash, to the defendant personally. The plaintiff terminated the defendant's employment in October, 2010, and filed this action against him at that time. At some point thereafter, Valerio learned that the defendant also had been working for MK Stucco.

In a revised complaint dated July 11, 2011, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had breached the duty of loyalty that he owed by virtue of his employment by, inter alia, charging kickbacks to subcontractors and performing work on his own behalf, rather than the plaintiff's, during

154 A.3d 995

the plaintiff's work day. He further claimed that the defendant's actions constituted conversion, statutory theft and fraud. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant's malfeasance had caused it damages of more than $500,000 and that, in light of the statutory theft allegations, it was entitled to treble damages.5 As to both the defendant and Jill Pompa, the plaintiff alleged unjust enrichment and requested that the trial court impose a constructive trust over both of their assets, contending that those assets included moneys belonging to the plaintiff that the defendant wrongfully had obtained.6 The defendant filed a cross complaint and

324 Conn. 725

counterclaims against the plaintiff and Valerio alleging, in essence, that the plaintiff had not paid him all of the compensation to which he was entitled.

After a bench trial, the trial court held that the defendant had violated his duty of loyalty to the plaintiff by working for MK Stucco, a competitor of the plaintiff, and by receiving compensation for that work. It found that, although the plaintiff had performed only estimating duties for MK Stucco, and not bidding work, some of the jobs at issue had been bid on by both MK Stucco and the plaintiff. See footnote 4 of this opinion. In the court's view, the defendant's actions in this regard were deliberate, wrongful and intentional. The court further concluded, however, that the plaintiff had failed to prove that it had suffered any financial harm as a result of those actions. Specifically, there was no evidence that the plaintiff had lost any bids to MK Stucco due to the defendant's work for both companies, or that the defendant had worked for MK Stucco during the plaintiff's work day rather than on evenings or weekends, as he had testified without contradiction. Moreover, the plaintiff had not produced any evidence to show how much it would have earned on the jobs it purportedly had lost wrongfully, even assuming that the lost jobs were attributable to the defendant's actions or inactions.

The trial court held additionally that the defendant had breached his duty of loyalty to the plaintiff by engaging in a kickback scheme with B–Jan, but not with any other subcontractors.7 It relied particularly on

324 Conn. 726

testimony from Bochenek as to three jobs on which B–Jan was working as a subcontractor and, according to Bochenek,

154 A.3d 996

the defendant had effected an increase to the contract price and, thereafter, required B–Jan to return one half of the price increase, in cash, to the defendant personally. Because the amount of the contract increases for those jobs were, respectively, $7000, $1400 and $6000, the court concluded that the total proven damages to the plaintiff, as a result of the kickback scheme, were $14,400, i.e., the aggregate of the individual increases. The court further concluded that the defendant's actions vis-à -vis B–Jan constituted conversion, statutory theft, fraud and unjust enrichment and, on the basis of the statutory theft, tripled the damages found to result in an award to the plaintiff in the amount of $43,200. Finally, the court imposed a constructive trust against both the defendant and Jill Pompa, reasoning that "[t]he latter, by having a joint bank account with [the...

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17 practice notes
  • St. George v. Hampton Ventures, LLC (In re Hampton Ventures, LLC), CASE NO. 18-21217 (JJT)
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Second Circuit
    • March 12, 2019
    ...such property in the hands of the defendant, is not entitled to the remedy of constructive trust." Wall Sys., Inc. v. Pompa , 324 Conn. 718, 742, 154 A.3d 989 (2017) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). "[I]t is unnecessary to find fraudulent intent for the imposition......
  • Horner v. Bagnell, SC 19700
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 7, 2017
    ...attorney from recovering quantum meruit from second attorney who litigated client matter to conclusion and collected contingency fee). 154 A.3d 989Rather, the present case is about former law partners' fiduciary duty to account to each other and their obligations to their former law firm. Q......
  • Ne. Builders Supply & Home Ctrs., LLC v. RMM Consulting, LLC, AC 41486
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • January 26, 2021
    ...by the defendants to establish that Northwest Lumber, rather than the plaintiff, was the actual seller. See Wall Systems, Inc. v. Pompa , 324 Conn. 718, 741, 154 A.3d 989 (2017) (trier 202 Conn.App. 342 of fact may credit some, all, or none of conflicting evidence). The question for this co......
  • Demattio v. Plunkett, AC 41283
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 25, 2020
    ...may not disturb [its] [credibility determination].’’ (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Wall Systems, Inc. v. Pompa , 324 Conn. 718, 741, 154 A.3d 989 (2017).We conclude that, on the basis of the testimony before it, and consistent with the lack of a copy of a cancellati......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • St. George v. Hampton Ventures, LLC (In re Hampton Ventures, LLC), CASE NO. 18-21217 (JJT)
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Second Circuit
    • March 12, 2019
    ...such property in the hands of the defendant, is not entitled to the remedy of constructive trust." Wall Sys., Inc. v. Pompa , 324 Conn. 718, 742, 154 A.3d 989 (2017) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). "[I]t is unnecessary to find fraudulent intent for the imposition......
  • Horner v. Bagnell, SC 19700
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 7, 2017
    ...attorney from recovering quantum meruit from second attorney who litigated client matter to conclusion and collected contingency fee). 154 A.3d 989Rather, the present case is about former law partners' fiduciary duty to account to each other and their obligations to their former law firm. Q......
  • Ne. Builders Supply & Home Ctrs., LLC v. RMM Consulting, LLC, AC 41486
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • January 26, 2021
    ...by the defendants to establish that Northwest Lumber, rather than the plaintiff, was the actual seller. See Wall Systems, Inc. v. Pompa , 324 Conn. 718, 741, 154 A.3d 989 (2017) (trier 202 Conn.App. 342 of fact may credit some, all, or none of conflicting evidence). The question for this co......
  • Demattio v. Plunkett, AC 41283
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 25, 2020
    ...may not disturb [its] [credibility determination].’’ (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Wall Systems, Inc. v. Pompa , 324 Conn. 718, 741, 154 A.3d 989 (2017).We conclude that, on the basis of the testimony before it, and consistent with the lack of a copy of a cancellati......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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