Waterman v. United Caribbean, Inc., 13871

Decision Date24 July 1990
Docket NumberNo. 13871,13871
Citation215 Conn. 688,577 A.2d 1047
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesLinda C. WATERMAN v. UNITED CARIBBEAN, INC., et al.

Haden P. Gerrish, New York City, with whom, on the brief, were Bruce F. Cohen and Fernando F. deArango, Greenwich, for appellant (plaintiff).

Paul L. Bollo, Stamford, for appellees (defendants).

Before PETERS, C.J., and SHEA, CALLAHAN, GLASS and HULL, JJ.

PETERS, Chief Justice.

The sole issue in this appeal is whether a party's prejudgment refusal to consent to an extension of time deprives a trial court of personal jurisdiction to render a judgment beyond the 120 day period allowed under General Statutes § 51-183b. 1 The plaintiff, Linda Waterman, initiated this action to recover damages on a defaulted promissory note and on related allegations of fiscal misconduct from the defendants, United Caribbean, Inc., Carl H. Freyer and Freyer Corporation. The trial court rendered a judgment, beyond the 120 day period of § 51-183b, in favor of the plaintiff against the named defendant but in favor of the remaining defendants. Although the defendants, who had originally refused, then consented to the delayed judgment, the trial court granted the plaintiff's motion to vacate its judgment and to declare a mistrial. On the defendants' appeal to the Appellate Court, that court reversed the judgment of the trial court and ordered a reinstatement of the defendants' judgment. Waterman v. United Caribbean, Inc., 20 Conn.App. 283, 566 A.2d 443 (1989). This court granted the plaintiff's petition for certification to appeal, 2 and we now reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The procedural issues arise out of a 1981 agreement between the plaintiff and the named defendant, a newly formed corporation established to invest in real estate in the United States Virgin Islands. The plaintiff advanced the named defendant $50,000 in return for a promissory note obligating the defendant to repay the principal sum plus interest in the amount of 10 percent per annum. When the business venture failed, the plaintiff commenced this action on the defaulted note against the named defendant and to recover damages for fraud, misrepresentation and breach of fiduciary duty from the remaining defendants. 3

The issues were tried to the court in proceedings that ended on August 17, 1987, and the last posttrial brief was filed on May 23, 1988. Waterman v. United Caribbean, Inc., supra, 20 Conn.App. at 284, 566 A.2d 443. By a letter dated October 5, 1988, which acknowledged that a judgment had not been rendered within the 120 day period required by § 51-183b, the trial court asked the parties to consent to an extension of time until December 15, 1988. Id. The plaintiff acceded to this request, but the defendants, by telephone and by letter dated October 25, 1988, refused to agree. Id., 283-84, 566 A.2d 443. Knowing of the defendants' refusal, the trial court on October 26, 1988, issued an abbreviated memorandum of decision limiting the plaintiff's recovery to her action against the named defendant on the promissory note but otherwise ruling in favor of the defendants. Recognizing that this ruling was substantially in their favor, the defendants thereafter, by letter dated October 28, 1988, attempted to execute a consent to the late rendering of the judgment.

In its order granting the plaintiff's motion to set aside the judgment and for a new trial, the trial court interpreted the waiver provision of § 51-183b to require the consent of all parties, executed prior to the issuance of the belated decision. Since the defendants had not so consented, the court vacated the judgment it had rendered. The Appellate Court disagreed, holding that failure to consent to a waiver before a late judgment "does not preclude that party from waiving or asserting that requirement after a late judgment has been rendered." Id., 287, 566 A.2d 443. The Appellate Court took the view that the plaintiff was bound by her express waiver from the time of its execution, but that the defendants had legally retained the option either to avoid or to ratify the judgment by appropriate action within a seasonable period after its rendition. Id., 287-88, 566 A.2d 443.

The plaintiff contends on appeal that, under the circumstances of this case, the trial court, when it rendered its judgment beyond the time period permitted by § 51-183b, lacked the requisite personal jurisdiction over the defendants and its judgment was therefore void. Because we agree with this contention, we need not consider the plaintiff's alternate arguments challenging the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction and the constitutionality of its decision in favor of the defendants.

Section 51-183b is the most recent revision of legislation that, in order to reduce delay and its attendant costs, imposes time limits on the power of a trial judge to render judgment in a civil case. The origin of the section may be traced to chapter 3 of the Public Acts of 1879. Spelke v. Shaw, 117 Conn. 639, 643, 169 A. 787 (1933). Situations such as that presented in Jaques v. Bridgeport Horse-Railroad Co., 43 Conn. 32 (1875), wherein this court held that following the completion of a trial, judgment in a case could not be held over until the following term absent the consent of the parties, probably inspired the original provision. Spelke v. Shaw, supra.

In past cases interpreting § 51-183b and its predecessors, we have held that the defect in a late judgment is that it implicates the trial court's power to continue to exercise jurisdiction over the parties before it. Whitaker v. Cannon Mills Co., 132 Conn. 434, 438, 45 A.2d 120 (1945); Foley v. George A. Douglas & Bro. Inc., 121 Conn. 377, 380, 185 A. 70 (1936). We have characterized a late judgment as voidable rather than as void; Borden v. Westport, 112 Conn. 152, 154, 151 A. 512 (1930); Lawrence v. Cannavan, 76 Conn. 303, 306, 56 A. 556 (1903); and have permitted the lateness of a judgment to be waived by the conduct or the consent of the parties. See, e.g., Hurlbutt v. Hatheway, 139 Conn. 258, 263, 93 A.2d 161 (1952); Whitaker v. Cannon Mills Co., supra. Thus, if both parties simultaneously expressly consent to a late judgment, either before the judgment is issued, or immediately thereafter, the judgment is valid and binding upon both parties, despite its lateness. Express consent, however, is not required. If a late judgment has been rendered and the parties fail to object seasonably, consent may be implied. Gordon v. Feldman, 164 Conn. 554, 556-57, 325 A.2d 247 (1973); Borden v. Westport, supra; Cheshire Brass Co. v. Wilson, 86 Conn. 551, 560, 86 A. 26 (1913). Because consent may be implied from a failure to object seasonably after a delayed judgment has been rendered, these cases do not support the trial court's ruling that § 51-183b invariably requires the prior consent of both parties in order to waive the time limits the statute imposes.

These implied consent cases establish that an unwarranted delay in the issuance of a judgment does not automatically deprive a court of personal jurisdiction. Even after the expiration of the time period within which a judge has the power to render a valid, binding judgment, a court continues to have jurisdiction over the parties until and unless they object. It is for this reason that a late judgment is merely voidable, and not void. It is for this reason as well that the issues arising under § 51-183b have focused on the question of waiver.

We have concluded that waiver has validated a judgment voidable under § 51-183b and its predecessors in one of two factual contexts. In the first context, the losing party has promptly sought to set aside an unfavorable judgment, only to be met by the winning party's claim of waiver by virtue of the losing party's prejudgment conduct....

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    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • February 19, 2019
    ...primarily on Foote v. Commissioner of Correction , 125 Conn. App. 296, 8 A.3d 524 (2010), and Waterman v. United Caribbean, Inc. , 215 Conn. 688, 577 A.2d 1047 (1990), the plaintiffs first claim that the trial court lost personal jurisdiction over this case because it failed to issue its de......
  • Torosyan v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
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    • Connecticut Supreme Court
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    ...... 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......
  • Foote v. Comm'r of Correction, 31008.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • November 30, 2010
    ...lateness of a judgment to be waived by the conduct or the consent of the parties." (Citations omitted.) Waterman v. United Caribbean, Inc., 215 Conn. 688, 692, 577 A.2d 1047 (1990). "[A]n unwarranted delay in the issuance of a judgment does not automatically deprive a court of personal juri......
  • Rosado v. Bridgeport Roman Catholic
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • June 2, 2009
    ...privilege and may not subsequently resurrect it to protect that material from subsequent disclosure. See Waterman v. United Caribbean, Inc., 215 Conn. 688, 692, 577 A.2d 1047 (1990) (party that fails to object timely waives statutory rights to time limits on judgment); State v. Saia, 172 Co......
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1 books & journal articles
  • 1990 Connecticut Supreme Court Review
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 65, 1990
    • Invalid date
    ...205 Conn. 751, 535 A.2d 1292 (1988). 5. 213 Conn. 337, 567 A.2d 1210 (1990). 6. Lo Sacco v. Young, 210 Conn. 503, 555 A.2d 986 (1989). 7. 215 Conn. 688, 577 A.2d 1047 (1990). 8. 20 Conn. App. 283, 566 A.2d 443 (1989). 9. 215 Conn. 450, 576 A.2d 1273 1990). 10. 20 Conn. A 51,563 A.2d l046(19......

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