Kayeon Rogers v. Bridgette Dellop

ResetAA Font size: Print

Superior Court of Connecticut.

Kayeon Rogers v. Bridgette Dellop

CV126032092S

-- May 08, 2013

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

MOTION TO STRIKE

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Kayeon Rogers has brought this two-count complaint sounding in common law negligence and statutory recklessness pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes 14–295 for injuries and damages arising out of a motor vehicle accident which occurred on July 23, 2012 in Waterbury, Connecticut.   The plaintiff alleges that he was a passenger in a motor vehicle owned and operated by the defendant Bridgette Dellop which was involved in a collision when the defendant attempted to turn left on East Main Street.   The plaintiff's complaint does not contain any further facts relevant to her claim against the defendant.   The first count states allegations of common law negligence against the defendant including violation of Conn. Gen.Stat. 14–218a.   The second count is a claim for recklessness under Conn. Gen.Stat. 14–295 in which the plaintiff's sole allegation is that the defendant violated Conn. Gen.Stat. 14–218a thus entitling her to double/treble damages.

II. Applicable Law Motion to Strike

“Whenever any party wishes to contest ․ the legal sufficiency of the allegations of any complaint ․ to state a claim upon which relief can be granted ․ that party may do so by filing a motion to strike the contested pleading or part thereof.”  Practice Book § 10–39.  “The purpose of a motion to strike is to contest ․ the legal sufficiency of the allegations of any complaint ․ to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  Fort Trumbull Conservancy, LLC v. Alves, 262 Conn. 480, 498, 815 A.2d 1188 (2003).  “[I]t is fundamental that in determining the sufficiency of a complaint challenged by a defendant's motion to strike, all well-pleaded facts and those facts necessarily implied from the allegations are taken as admitted.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  Coe v. Board of Education, 301 Conn. 112, 116–17, 19 A.3d 640 (2011).   A motion to strike “does not admit legal conclusions or the truth or accuracy of opinions stated in the pleadings.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  Faulkner v. United Technologies Corp., 240 Conn. 576, 588, 693 A.2d 293 (1997).  “A motion to strike is properly granted if the complaint alleges mere conclusions of law that are unsupported by the facts alleged.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC v. Ganim, 303 Conn. 205, 213, 32 A.3d 296 (2011).

III. Connecticut General Statute 14–295 Text of Statute

General Statutes § 14–295 provides:  “In any civil action to recover damages resulting from personal injury, wrongful death or damage to property, the trier of fact may award double or treble damages if the injured party has specifically pleaded that another party has deliberately or with reckless disregard operated a motor vehicle in violation of section 14–218a, 14–219, 14–222, 14–227a, 14–230, 14–234, 14–237, 14–239 or 14–240a, and that such violation was a substantial factor in causing such injury, death or damage to property.   The owner of a rental or leased motor vehicle shall not be responsible for such damages unless the damages arose from such owner's operation of the motor vehicle.”

Nature of Superior Court Split of Authority

There has been no relevant Supreme or Appellate Court authority on the pleading requirements of § 14–295 since the statute's last major revision in 1988.   See Yankus v. Dwyer, Superior Court, judicial district of Waterbury, Docket No. CV 12 6016026 (February 15, 2013, Roche, J.).   Superior Courts are split as to the specificity needed to properly plead recklessness under the statute.  Id. The split is based primarily on the interpretation of the term “specifically pleaded” that was inserted in 1988.  Id. The majority viewpoint is that the current version of § 14–295, by its terms, sets forth all of the necessary components of a properly pleaded statutory recklessness claim:  deliberate or reckless operation of a motor vehicle;  violation of one or more of the listed statutes;  and that the violation was a substantial factor in causing the injury, death or property damage.  Id. Under this view, the term “specifically pleads” does not necessitate the pleading of specific conduct that is reckless, above and beyond what constitutes mere negligence, so long as recklessness is alleged.   The minority viewpoint, in contrast, is that a plaintiff must supply the court with specific factual allegations of reckless conduct above and beyond facts constituting mere negligence.   See, e.g., Fitzgerald v. Marcus Dairy, Inc., Superior Court, judicial district of Ansonia–Milford, Docket No. CV 03 082618 (April 2, 2004, Bear, J.).

The reasoning of the majority viewpoint is partially based on the legislative history of the statute, as set forth in Armstrong v. Smith, Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Docket No. CV 94 0533947 (December 2, 1994, Sheldon, J.) (13 Conn. L. Rptr. 120).   In Armstrong, the court held that the key determinant for the legislature in deciding whether double or treble damages could be imposed was whether an individual had acted “deliberately or with reckless disregard.”  Id., 122.   In Judge Sheldon's view, the legislature addressed this concern by allowing plaintiffs to claim double or treble damages even for “minor offenses” when they have “serious results.”   Id. Thus, “[b]y pleading, and thus committing ․ to proving, th[e] critical mental element [of reckless disregard], the plaintiff has pleaded all the law requires to ensure that the statute will be strictly enforced according to its terms.”  Id.

On the other hand, “[t]he reasoning of the minority view is that [t]here is a wide difference between negligence and a reckless disregard of the rights or safety of others, and a complaint should employ language explicit enough to clearly inform the court and opposing counsel that reckless misconduct is relied on.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)   Pyka v. Popielase, Superior Court, judicial district of Ansonia–Milford, Docket No. CV 05 50000166 (May 30, 2006, Hartmere, J.).   Under this theory, in order to defeat a motion to strike, “[t]he plaintiff must plead particularized facts that when taken as true would show that the defendant acted with reckless disregard.   The facts alleged must show that the defendant consciously chose a course of action despite the fact that the defendant did know, or reasonably should have known, that the action posed a serious danger to others.”   Victor v. Williamson, Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield, Docket No. CV 05 4008786 (July 7, 2006, Owens, J.T.R.).

History of § 14–295

In order to determine the precise pleading requirements of § 14–295, it is helpful to view the statute in the context of its history.  Section 14–295 can be traced back to 1797 when it was entitled “An Act to Regulate Stage and Other Carriage Drivers.”  Gionfriddo v. Avis Rent A Car System, Inc., 192 Conn. 280, 287 n.3, 472 A.2d 306 (1984);  see also Bishop v. Kelly, 206 Conn. 608, 618, 539 A.2d 108 (1988).   In its original form, “Section 1 required two carriage drivers approaching each other from opposite directions ‘to turn or bear [their] carriage each driver to his right hand, or to slacken ․ their pace or gait, or otherwise endeavour to give each other a fair and equal chance or advantage to pass.’   Section 2 stated that ‘if any driver or drivers ․ shall by negligence or carelessness, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, run against or strike any other such like carriage, horse or horses drawing the same, and thereby cause or occasion any hurt ․ to any person or persons therein ․ [he] shall forfeit and pay to the person or persons so hurt and injured, or suffering such damage or injury, threefold damages and costs of prosecution ․’ Public Laws of the State of Connecticut, Book I, Title 152 (1797).”  Bishop v. Kelly, supra, 618–19.   Thus, the statute imposed treble damages for the negligent violation of certain rules of the road, such as the proper manner in which two carriage drivers traveling in opposite directions on the same road may pass the other.

Under the original version of the statute, treble damages were automatically available so long as “the verdict was necessarily founded upon a violation of the statute on the part of the defendant.”  Broschart v. Tuttle, 59 Conn. 1, 8–9, 21 A. 925 (1890).   Consequently, it was “necessary to state such facts in the complaint as will clearly bring the defendant within the provisions of the statute.”  Id. In Broschart v. Tuttle, supra, 9, the plaintiff failed to allege that “when the teams [of horses belonging to] the plaintiff and defendant were about to meet in the public highway the defendant failed to turn to the right and slacken his pace;  nor that it was practicable for him to do so;  nor that the defendant failed to give the plaintiff a fair and equal opportunity to pass;  nor that he drove against the plaintiff's horse or vehicle on account of his failure to do these acts.”   Our Supreme Court held that treble damages were not available, even after a plaintiff's verdict, because the complaint did not allege sufficient facts as to clearly bring the defendant within the provisions of the statute.  Id., 8–10.

This strict pleading requirement was reconfirmed five years later in Stevens v. Kelley, 66 Conn. 570, 34 A. 502 (1895).   There, the plaintiff alleged careless and negligent driving by a defendant who was allegedly racing down a highway in Guilford.  Id., 573–74.   The plaintiff asked for treble damages pursuant to the statute, which the trial court allowed following a plaintiff's verdict.  Id., 574.   The Supreme Court reversed the imposition of treble damages, stating:  “It is enough for the purposes of this case that, whatever may be the elements of the offense for which triple damages may be imposed, it is certain that those elements must be alleged and proved in order to justify a judgment for such damages ․ The plaintiff has neither alleged nor proved this essential element ․” Id., 576.   Ruling the award of treble damages in such circumstances to be a “fatal error,” the court noted that although it is not necessary to use the precise words of the statute in order to properly plead under it, “the allegation must be sufficient to bring the vehicle within the description of those mentioned in the statute.”  Id., 576–77.   The 1797 statute remained essentially the same for over a century.   See Stevens v. Kelley, 66 Conn. 570, 572–73, 34 A. 502 (1895);  Levick v. Norton, 51 Conn. 461, 471 (1883).   In 1905, for instance, it provided:  ‘Every such person who shall, by neglecting to conform to [the rules of the road], cause any injury to the person or property of another, or shall negligently collide with another, thereby causing such injury, shall pay to the party injured treble damages and costs.’   Public Acts 1905, c. 216, p. 412.”   Bishop v. Kelly, supra, 206 Conn. 619.

In 1909, the legislature made a major change to the statute.   After the amendment, the statute provided in relevant part:  “Every person who shall, by neglecting to conform to the provisions of section two of this act, cause any injury to the person or property of another, or shall negligently collide with another, thereby causing such injury, shall pay to the party injured double or treble damages as, in the discretion of the judge ․ shall seem just, together with the costs of such action.”  (Emphasis added.)   Public Acts 1909, c. 268;  Bishop v. Kelly, supra, 613 n.4. Subsequent to the amendment, “[i]n unbroken precedents dating back to 1913, judicial discretion to impose multiple damages under § 14–295 or its precursors has been held to be limited to cases where the record demonstrates more than ordinary negligence.”  Bishop v. Kelly, supra, 613;  see also Jack v. Scanlon, 4 Conn.App. 451, 455, 495 A.2d 1084, cert. dismissed, 197 Conn. 808, 499 A.2d 59 (1985) (“[T]he imposition of the penalty of double or treble damages should be reserved for cases which involve offenses more serious than simple negligence.   Such a penalty should be imposed only where the violation of the rules of the road has been deliberate or at least under conditions which indicate that the defendant was conducting himself with reckless disregard of the rights of others.”  [Internal quotation marks omitted.] ).   Thus, the 1909 amendment was substantial because until then, culpability greater than negligence, such as gross negligence or recklessness, was not a prerequisite to the imposition of treble damages.  Bishop v. Kelly, supra, 620 (“[T]he early statutes ․ make it clear that, prior to 1909, the court had no discretion vis-a-vis the award of multiple damages in cases involving violations of the rules of the road.”).

Despite the substantial change in the degree of culpability required to violate the statute, pleading requirements remained unchanged.   For example, in Tillinghast v. Leppert, 93 Conn. 247, 105 A. 615 (1919), the court did not allow double or treble damages following a general verdict in a case that contained causes of action for common law negligence and for a violation of a precursor to § 14–295.   The court stated:  “We require that the complaint shall clearly state such facts as will bring the case within the statute ․ And we require that the claim for relief should be specifically based upon the statutory remedy.”  (Citation omitted.)  Id., 249–50.   In 1985, these requirements were reaffirmed by the Connecticut Supreme Court in Leone v. Knighton, 196 Conn. 494, 496, 493 A.2d 887 (1985).

In 1988, our Supreme Court prompted a major revision of the statute in Bishop v. Kelly, supra, 206 Conn. 615, when the court held that the 1988 version of § 14–295 unconstitutionally deprived defendants of the right to a jury trial as to the issue of double or treble damages.   Following the Bishop v. Kelly decision, the legislature amended § 14–295 to “make it clear that the trier of fact will determine whether or not double or treble damages should be awarded” and to “incorporate the language of the [Bishop v. Kelly ] decision as the standard to be delivered.”   31 H.R. Proc., Pt. 11, 1988 Sess., p. 3683–84, Rep. Tulisano speaking.   As relevant to the present matter, the statute has been unchanged since 1988.1

Analysis

In light of this history, the court now turns to the pleading requirements of the current version of § 14–295, which provides in relevant part:  “In any civil action to recover damages resulting from personal injury, wrongful death or damage to property, the trier of fact may award double or treble damages if the injured party has specifically pleaded that another party has deliberately or with reckless disregard operated a motor vehicle in violation of section 14–218a, 14–219, 14–222, 14–227a, 14–230, 14–234, 14–237, 14–239 or 14–240a, and that such violation was a substantial factor in causing such injury, death or damage to property.”   In resolving this question, the court will apply “settled rules of construction for the purpose of ascertaining legislative intent, beginning with the plain meaning rule set forth in General Statutes § 1–2z.” 2  Cordero v. University of Connecticut Health Center, 308 Conn. 215, 224–25, 61 A.3d 514 (2013).   Since an examination of the text of § 14–295 and related statutes yields an ambiguity, the court will also utilize extra textual sources, including the legislative history and circumstances surrounding the statute's enactment, the legislative policy it was designed to implement and its relationship to common law principles governing the same general subject matter.  Id.

There can be no serious dispute that prior to the 1988 amendment of § 14–295, Connecticut case law held that it was necessary for the injured party to clearly state such facts as will bring the case within the provisions statute.  Leone v. Knighton, supra, 196 Conn. 496.   But when one attempts to apply this pleading standard to the current version of the statute, two potential problems arise.   The first potential problem is that courts analyzing any of the pre–1988 versions of § 14–295 never had occasion to determine the precise issue of whether the injured party must plead specific facts supporting a “more than mere negligence” tortfeasor culpability.   See Jack v. Scanlon, supra, 4 Conn.App. 458 (recognizing judicial creation of “more than mere negligence” standard based on culpability of defendant's conduct).   This is because before the 1909 revision, treble damages were automatically available for a merely negligent violation of the statute.  Bishop v. Kelly, supra, 206 Conn. 620.   And even after the statute's 1909 revision, the statute itself did not require more than negligence—that requirement was created by ‘judicial gloss” when the statute was revised to give judges discretion to impose multiple damages.  Id., 614.   Between the 1909 and 1988 revisions, if the judge found that the tortfeasor was more than merely negligent and determined that multiple damages were appropriate, he or she would impose them after the jury found a violation of rules of the road.   See Goldfarb v. Bragg, 39 Conn.Sup. 228, 229–30, 475 A.2d 346 (1983);  Eustice v. Adley Express Co., 1 Conn.Sup. 58, 59 (1935).   If the judge determined that double or treble damages were not appropriate because the tortfeasor was merely negligent, the injured party would be entitled only to compensatory damages under a common law negligence theory, separate and distinct from § 14–295 and its post–1909 predecessors.   See Stevens v. Kelley, supra, 66 Conn. 574;  Goldfarb v. Bragg, supra, 229–30;  Eustice v. Adley Express Co., supra, 59.

It is not surprising, then, that the “more than mere negligence” requirement was not addressed by the courts prior to the 1988 amendment with respect to pleading, because it was not part of the statute, and was analyzed post-verdict.   But it does not necessarily follow that the 1988 amendment rendered the pleading standard predating that amendment invalid.   To the contrary, when the legislature elected to codify the recklessness standard set by the courts, it must be presumed that the legislature was aware of the longstanding judicial determination that the complaint must clearly state such facts as will bring the case within the provisions of the statute, and that it made a conscious choice to include the recklessness requirement as one of those provisions, subject to the same standard of pleading.  White v. Burns, 213 Conn. 307, 333, 567 A.2d 1195 (1990) (noting presumption that legislature is cognizant of Connecticut Supreme Court's interpretation of a statute).   Thus, although it is true that there has been no appellate authority on the precise pleading standard for a statutory recklessness claim since the 1988 revision, there is nothing fundamentally different about the recklessness element that would preclude it from being subjected to the same pleading requirement as the other provisions in the statute, nor from the strictures of Practice Book § 10–1.

The second potential problem with the continued use of the pleading standard developed before 1988 is the insertion of the term “specifically pleaded.”   The majority of courts read this term as announcing a different, less stringent pleading standard than would otherwise be required by Practice Book § 10–1 and precedent interpreting § 14–295 and its predecessors.   This court believes that this is an incorrect interpretation of § 14–295, and that the legislative history and the judicial decisions interpreting the statute indicate to the contrary.

“[W]hen changes have been introduced by amendment to a statute, the presumed change does not go any further than that which is expressly declared or necessarily implied ․ [The court] cannot impute to the legislature ․ in the absence of an intent clearly expressed in the act, [an intent] to enact [a statute] which involves a departure from existing statutory law.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  Gaida v. Planning & Zoning Commission, 108 Conn.App. 19, 25, 947 A.2d 361, cert. denied, 289 Conn. 922, 923, 958 A.2d 150, 151 (2008).   In amending § 14–295, the legislature specifically declared that the trier of fact, as opposed to the judge, determines whether to award double or treble damages.   This change was enacted is response to the Bishop v. Kelly decision in order to “make it clear that the trier of fact will determine whether or not double or treble damages should be awarded.”   31 H.R. Proc., supra, p. 3683–84.   Obviously, the legislature intended this change to be a departure from existing law, which had been held unconstitutional.   The legislature has also clearly expressed an intent to “incorporate the language of the [Bishop v. Kelly ] decision as the [culpability] standard to be delivered.”   31 H.R. Proc., supra, p. 3684.

In contrast, the use of the term “specifically pleaded” does not denote a clear intent to depart from existing law.   The insertion of the term may have been intended to ensure that an alleged tortfeasor is given sufficient notice at the pleading stage that an injured party is seeking double or treble damages pursuant to § 14–295, as to opposed to notice later in litigation, e.g., by a request to charge.   Indeed, it has not been entirely clear over the years whether the statute must be named in the complaint.   See Dubreuil v. Waterman, 84 Conn. 47, 51, 78 A. 721 (1911) (“As [§ 14–295] is not a strictly penal statute, the plaintiff was not required to recite it or to expressly aver that the action was brought upon it in order to recover the increased damages provided by it.”);  Stevens v. Kelley, supra, 66 Conn. 577 (“Whether, in order to recover the extraordinary damages given by [§ 14–295], it is necessary to refer to it specifically in the complaint, we will not determine, but it is conceded to be necessary to state such facts in the complaint as will clearly bring the defendant within the provisions of the statute.”  [Internal quotation marks omitted.] ).   But the fact that the legislature wished to ensure notice to the alleged tortfeasor does not support the position that merely reciting the word “reckless” is sufficient notice.   Otherwise, one must interpret the two words “specifically pleaded” as not only permitting a conclusory allegation of recklessness, but also as abrogating the longstanding requirement that specific facts must be pleaded to sufficiently allege a violation of the rules of the road, as the term “specifically pleaded” applies to all of the elements in the statute, not solely to the culpability requirement.  General Statutes § 14–295 (“the trier of fact may award double or treble damages if the injured party has specifically pleaded that another party has ․ operated a motor vehicle in violation of [an enumerated section]”).   Such an interpretation also seems to contradict the principle that a statute with penal qualities, such as § 14–295, should be “construed with reasonable strictness in determining whether the act complained of comes within the description in the statute of the acts for which the person in fault is made liable.”  Dubreuil v. Waterman, supra, 51.

A more reasonable explanation is that the legislature added the “specifically pleaded” requirement in order to ensure that the injured party provides sufficient notice that he or she is seeking multiple damages under the statute in accord with the rules of fact pleading set forth in Practice Book § 10–1.   See Dubreuil v. Waterman, supra, 84 Conn. 52 (”[W]e deem it proper to suggest ․ that, in compliance with the ․ Practice Act ․ the complaint should contain a demand for the relief to which the plaintiff supposes himself to be entitled, it would be well, if indeed it is not necessary, that one seeking to recover such extraordinary damages [pursuant to § 14–295] should state such claim in his pleadings.).   This interpretation of the term “specifically pleaded” is in line with the court's holding in Belknap v. Schroeder, Superior Court, judicial district of Tolland, Docket No. CV 12 6005263 (October 16, 2012, Sferrazza, J.) (54 Conn. L. Rptr. 775).   In interpreting the phrase “specifically pleaded,” Judge Sferrazza stated:  “The court refuses to regard this phrase as creating a shibboleth that is satisfied by the mere utterance of the word ‘reckless' in the pleadings.   Instead, the court construes ‘specifically pleaded’ to encompass the normal rules of pleading set forth in Practice Book § 10–1.   That is, the plaintiff's allegations must go beyond a statement of legal conclusions, such as that a defendant violated a statute ‘recklessly,’ and specify the material facts which establish the viability of that legal conclusion.”  Id., 775.   In reaching that holding, Judge Sferrazza reviewed the history of § 14–295 and concluded, as this court does, that when the legislature revamped § 14–295 to adopt the language of Bishop v. Kelly as the culpability standard, it adopted the common law definition of recklessness, rather than a new definition not subject to established pleading requirements.  Id.

In sum, this court is not convinced that the legislature intended to carve out an exception to the fact pleading requirements of Practice Book § 10–1, nor abrogate established precedent requiring the injured party to clearly state such facts as will bring the case within the provisions of § 14–295.   Despite the lack of recent appellate authority on the issue, this court agrees with Judge Lager that the degree of specificity required to plead a statutory recklessness claim under § 14–295 has been addressed by the Supreme and Appellate Courts, and that it is clear from those cases that the complaint must allege specific facts which bring the defendant within the provisions of the statute.   Hopwood v. Sciarretta, Superior Court, judicial district of Ansonia–Milford at Derby, Docket No. CV 01 0075934 (July 11, 2002, Lager, J.) (32 Conn. L. Rptr. 474, 475–76);  see also Marron v. Grala, Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Docket No. CV 12 6016399 (January 2, 2013, Shortall, J.) (adopting Judge Lager's reasoning in Hopwood v. Sciarretta ).   There is no clear indication that, at the motion to strike juncture, the legislature intended that the injured party must merely commit himself or herself proving recklessness at some unspecified time in the future;  see Armstrong v. Smith, supra, 13 Conn. L. Rptr. 122;  rather than set forth a “plain and concise statement of the material facts on which [he or she] relies.”  Practice Book § 10–1.   The injured party must allege more than “mere conclusions of law that are unsupported by the facts alleged” to defeat a motion to strike.  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC v. Ganim, supra, 303 Conn. 213.

Accordingly, in order to be entitled to double or treble damages under § 14–295, a plaintiff must plead conduct which, taken as true, shows that the alleged tortfeasor engaged in “a conscious choice of a course of action either with knowledge of the serious danger to others involved in it or with knowledge of facts which would disclose this danger to any reasonable man, and the actor must recognize that his conduct involves a risk substantially greater ․ than that which is necessary to make his conduct negligent.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  Rubel v. Wainwright, 86 Conn.App. 728, 740–41, 862 A.2d 863, cert. denied, 273 Conn. 919, 871 A.2d 1028 (2005).  “[A] brief reference to recklessness, contained within a count which otherwise is clearly limited to ordinary negligence, is [in]sufficient to raise a claim of reckless and wanton misconduct.   Simply using the word reckless or recklessness is not enough.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)   Ricco v. Brewer, 92 Conn.App. 158, 170–71, 884 A.2d 12 (2005).

The plaintiff's allegations describe negligence which by themselves fail to meet the requirements of General Statutes 14–295.   In the third count of his complaint, the plaintiff realleges allegations of negligence from the first count asserting that these same actions were reckless in violation of Conn. Gen Stat. 14–218a without any additional facts to support his claim.   This bare allegation is insufficient to trigger the relief provided under Conn. Gen.Stat. 14–295.   It follows then, that in the absence of further specificity, the allegations in the second count do not elevate the plaintiff's claim to the level of conduct required to survive a motion to strike under the above analysis.   A plaintiff seeking treble damages under Conn. Gen.Stat. 14–295 must plead facts sufficient to appraise the court and the defendant of the specific reckless conduct and how the defendant is alleged to have violated the enumerated statutes.

Construed in the light most favorable to sustaining the legal sufficiency of the second count, the allegations contained therein merely restate the plaintiff's claim of negligence.   Rather than state facts to support a claim of reckless conduct, the plaintiff pleads a legal conclusion that the defendant violated statutes enumerated in 14–295.   It is certainly possible that the plaintiff may by way of discovery or otherwise ascertain facts which would support a claim that the defendant engaged in conduct of a reckless nature in violation of one of the named statutes.   Under such circumstances the plaintiff would be entitled to amend the complaint.   However, consistent with the above analysis, the court concludes that merely pleading recklessness citing one or more of the statutes included in Conn. Gen.Stat. 14–295 such as plaintiff has done in this case does not set forth a proper claim in support of treble damages.   This court agrees with the reasoning of those decisions referenced above which require a plaintiff to state facts sufficient to show how the “trigger” statutes enumerated in Conn. Gen.Stat. 14–295 were allegedly violated.   Since the plaintiff has not alleged specific facts or conduct which would give rise to a level of statutory recklessness to support a prayer for relief seeking statutory double/treble damages, the court grants the motion to strike the second count of the plaintiff's complaint.

SO ORDERED

SOMMER, J.

FOOTNOTES

1.  FN1. In 2003, one sentence was added to the end of § 14–295:  “The owner of a rental or leased motor vehicle shall not be responsible for such damages unless the damages arose from such owner's operation of the motor vehicle.”  P.A. No. 03–250.

2.  FN2. General Statutes § 1–2z provides:  “The meaning of a statute shall, in the first instance, be ascertained from the text of the statute itself and its relationship to other statutes.   If, after examining such text and considering such relationship, the meaning of such text is plain and unambiguous and does not yield absurd or unworkable results, extra textual evidence of the meaning of the statute shall not be considered.”

Sommer, Mary E., J.

FindLaw Career Center


      Post a Job  |  View More Jobs

    View More