Litigation & Dispute Resolution 2022

Published date11 April 2022
Subject MatterLitigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Arbitration & Dispute Resolution, Trials & Appeals & Compensation
Law FirmShipman & Goodwin LLP
AuthorMs Kathleen M. LaManna and Diane C. Polletta

1 Litigation - Preliminaries

1.1 What type of legal system does your jurisdiction have? Are there any rules that govern civil procedure in your jurisdiction?

Connecticut adheres to the doctrine of stare decisis; once an issue has been adjudicated by the Connecticut Supreme Court - the highest state court - the decision controls precedent on all lower courts. Decisions rendered by the Connecticut Appellate Court are likewise binding on Connecticut Superior Courts (which are the state's trial level courts) until reversed by the Appellate Court or the Supreme Court.

At the trial court level, Connecticut civil procedure is governed by the Rules for the Superior Court, which includes general rules applicable to all trial courts as well as rules pertaining specifically to civil matters, juvenile matters, family matters and criminal matters. At the Appellate Court and Supreme Court levels, Connecticut civil procedure is governed by the Rules of Appellate Procedure. The probate courts are governed by the Probate Rules for Practice and Procedure. Collectively, those rules are known as the Connecticut Practice Book.

1.2 How is the civil court system in your jurisdiction structured? What are the various levels of appeal and are there any specialist courts?

The Superior Courts constitute the trial courts in civil and criminal matters. There are 15 judicial districts throughout the state, with one Superior Court in each judicial district.

Adverse decisions rendered by the Superior Courts are generally appealed to the Appellate Court. A party adversely affected by a decision rendered by the Appellate Court may petition for certiorari to the Connecticut Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is not obligated to hear any case; rather, the granting of certiorari is discretionary.

In certain situations, a party may appeal a trial court decision directly to the Connecticut Supreme Court. See Conn. Gen. Stat. ' 51-199(b). The Connecticut Supreme Court may also transfer to itself cases from the Appellate Court. Conn. Gen. Stat. ' 51-199(c).

Specialised courts handle matters pertaining to housing, small claims (if damages are not expected to exceed $5,000), juvenile matters, family matters, probate, and tax and administrative appeals.

1.3 What are the main stages in civil proceedings in your jurisdiction? What is their underlying timeframe (please include a brief description of any expedited trial procedures)?

To commence a civil action, a plaintiff must first serve a summons and complaint upon all defendants. See question 3.1. Once service is complete, the plaintiff must file the summons and complaint with the clerk of the applicable trial court.

Typically, the plaintiff must include a 'return date' on both the summons and the complaint. The return date, which generally must be a Tuesday, is a date with no independent significance, but rather is a date by which other deadlines are keyed. Within two days of the return date, each defendant must file an appearance.

Generally, 30 days following the return date, each defendant must file a pleading responsive to the complaint. A defendant may respond by filing any of the following: motion to dismiss; request to revise; or motion to strike; or answer. However, pleadings may only be filed in the aforementioned order; by filing a subsequent pleading, a party waives its right to file one of the preceding pleadings.

Following the filing of the defendant's response to the complaint, the plaintiff may file its objection or other response thereto within 30 days. Thereafter, pleadings typically advance one step every 30 days.

The trial court hears argument on motions (such as a motion to dismiss or motion to strike) on the short calendar (see question 6.1). Short calendar hearings typically take place every Monday, and a judge adjudicating the motion may rule from the bench or issue a written order within 120 days of the argument. Practice Book ' 11-19.

Throughout the pendency of the litigation, parties may engage in discovery. At any time, either or both parties may move for summary judgment.

If the case has not been disposed of through interlocutory motions, within 10 days after the pleadings are closed, either party must file a certificate of closed pleadings, which notifies the court that the matter is ready for trial. A case may be scheduled for trial at any time by order of the court.

Certain statutory and procedural mechanisms are available in Connecticut that can provide for expedited hearings and relief under limited specified circumstances by way of prejudgment remedies and injunctive relief (see question 3.2). There is also a Complex Litigation Docket (the 'CLD'; see question 6.1) within the Superior Court, which allows for a streamlined discovery and motion process, although transfer to the CLD does not necessarily result in an expedited trial date.

1.4 What is your jurisdiction's local judiciary's approach to exclusive jurisdiction clauses?

Exclusive jurisdiction clauses, commonly referred to as forum selection clauses, are generally enforceable in Connecticut, absent a showing of 'fraud or overreaching'. U.S. Trust Co. v. Bohart, 197 Conn. 34, 42 (1985). In addition, an exclusive jurisdiction clause may not be enforced if it will make litigation 'so gravely difficult and inconvenient that a party unfairly is at a severe disadvantage in comparison to his opponent'. Id.

Matters involving title to real property generally must be adjudicated by a court in the state where the real property lies, rendering void forum selection clauses providing otherwise.

1.5 What are the costs of civil court proceedings in your jurisdiction? Who bears these costs? Are there any rules on costs budgeting?

The cost of civil litigation varies widely depending on the nature of the case and counsel selected. In general, the cost of filing a complaint with the court ranges from $95 to $360. Additional fees may be assessed throughout the litigation. For example, an additional cost of $335 is associated with a party requesting a transfer of a complex case to the CLD (see question 6.1).

Connecticut follows the 'American Rule' that each party bears its own attorneys' fees and costs of litigation. Generally, the prevailing party is not entitled to recover such costs and fees absent a statutory or contractual exception, or where one party has acted in bad faith.

Connecticut does not have rules on costs budgeting.

1.6 Are there any particular rules about funding litigation in your jurisdiction? Are contingency fee/conditional fee arrangements permissible?

Contingent fee agreements are permitted except in criminal matters and domestic relations matters. CT R RPC Rule 1.5. Any contingent fee arrangements must be in writing signed by the client and must state how the fee is to be determined. CT R RPC Rule 1.5.

In certain limited cases, such as where a plaintiff seeks a prejudgment remedy ('PJR'), the court may order that the plaintiff provide a bond. See, e.g., Conn. Gen. Stat. ' 52-278d.

1.7 Are there any constraints to assigning a claim or cause of action in your jurisdiction? Is it permissible for a non-party to litigation proceedings to finance those proceedings?

Connecticut courts have continued to evolve their position with respect to the assignability of particular claims. It is clear that contract claims are freely assignable (Rumbin v. Utica Mut. Ins. Co., 254 Conn. 259 (2000)), while tort claims based on personal injury are not assignable. Gurski v. Rosenblum & Filan, LLC, 276 Conn. 257 (2005).

Beyond those two pronouncements, the law becomes less clear. Tort claims based on damage to property are generally assignable, although courts have noted that public policy considerations in a specific case may weigh against assignment.

The assignability of claims that may be asserted under either contract or tort law are generally determined on public policy grounds. Gurski v. Rosenblum & Filan, LLC, 276 Conn. 257 (2005) (legal malpractice claim not assignable); see also Stearns & Wheeler, LLC v. Kowalsky Bros., Inc., 289 Conn. 1, 9, 11 (2008) (Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act claim not assignable).

Typically, a client is responsible for its own attorneys' fees. However, a lawyer may be paid from a source other than the client if the client provides informed consent and the payment arrangement does not interfere with the attorneys' duties to the client.

1.8 Can a party obtain security for/a guarantee over its legal costs?

No bond or recognisance for prosecution is required of a party in any civil action unless ordered by the judicial authority upon motion and for good cause shown. If the judicial authority finds that a party is not able to pay the costs of the action, the judicial authority shall order the party to give a sufficient bond to pay taxable costs. Only the taxable costs for which a party may be responsible under Conn. Gen. Stat. ' 52-257 may be considered, except that expert witness fees may not be considered even though such fees are allowable under ' 52-257. See Conn. Gen. Stat. ' 52-185; Practice Book ' 8-3A.

2 Before Commencing Proceedings

2.1 Is there any particular formality with which you must comply before you initiate proceedings?

Generally, there are no formalities with which a plaintiff must comply prior to the commencement of litigation. However, there may be notice or demand requirements for particular statutory claims.

In addition, parties should review any governing contract to determine whether the contract provides for any pre-litigation notice or demand requirements. Such provisions will generally be enforced by the courts.

2.2 What limitation periods apply to different classes of claim for the bringing of proceedings before your civil courts? How are they calculated? Are time limits treated as a substantive or procedural law issue?

There is a wide range of limitation periods that apply to various statutory and/or common-law claims. Set forth below are the limitation periods for the most...

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