Krevis v. Bridgeport

In Krevis v. Bridgeport, 262 Conn. 813, 817 A.2d 628 (2003), the defendant filed a motion in limine on the eve of trial to preclude evidence of punitive damages and attorney's fees, which the court granted. Id., 815. The plaintiff immediately questioned the nature of the ruling because he believed it was effectively a ruling that a governmental immunity statute applied to the case. Id. The court responded that the statute did apply and that it could make a ruling on the statute's effect if the plaintiff wanted. Id., 815-16. The plaintiff's counsel requested a recess to confer with his client, which was granted, and returned to ask the court to make a ruling at that time instead of the possibility that it might make such a ruling after days of evidence. Id., 816. The defendant interjected that an oral motion for summary judgment might be an appropriate way to resolve questions of the statute's applicability. Id. The court acknowledged the irregularity of an oral summary judgment motion, and, after a brief colloquy with the plaintiff's counsel, granted the motion and dismissed the case. Id. The plaintiff appealed, claiming that the court's grant of the defendant's oral motion for summary judgment violated the provisions set forth in the rules of practice. Id., 814. Our Supreme Court held that under the particular circumstances of the case, the court's action was not improper because the plaintiff had waived compliance with the requirements of the rules of practice. Id., 824. The court reasoned that it previously had "recognized a party's ability to waive rights authorized by the provisions of the Practice Book." Id., 823. The court stated that "to determine the presence of waiver, there must be evidence of intelligent and intentional action by the petitioner of the right claimed to be waived. . . . It must be shown that the party understood its rights and voluntarily relinquished them anyway. . . . Each case should be considered upon the particular facts and circumstances surrounding that case, including the background, experience and conduct of the party that is waiving its rights." Id. The Supreme Court then reviewed the transcript and found that the record of discussions between the plaintiff's counsel and the trial court revealed that counsel was well aware of the procedural requirements for summary judgments, and that he knowingly had waived compliance with the provisions of our rules of practice. Id., 823-24. As a consequence, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, as the rules of practice are designed to be liberally construed. Id., 824.