Lewis v. Drew
It is well established under Connecticut law that, as explained in the 2002 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Pestey v. Cushman, "[a] party may preserve for appeal a claim that a jury instruction was improper either by submitting a written request to charge or by taking an exception to the charge as given." Joseph Lewis sustained multiple injuries while a prisoner in the custody of the commissioner of correction when a vehicle he was being transported in was hit by an unidentified tractor trailer. The state owned vehicle driven by Richard Bellemare crashed into the median barrier and was struck by another motor vehicle driven by Tina Drew. The tractor trailer operator fled the scene. Lewis commenced this action and asserted against the defendant State, negligence in the first count and a claim for uninsured motorist benefits in the second count. At trial, the jury found for the state on the negligence count and in favor of the plaintiff on the second count awarding $182,979 in damages. The court reduced the sum to the $20,000 uninsured motorist policy limit. The plaintiff moved to set aside the verdict claiming that the court improperly charged the jury on apportionment of liability regarding the negligence count. The court denied the motion. The plaintiff appealed claiming that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to set aside the verdict. He argued that the court improperly failed to charge the jury that it could apportion liability among the unidentified tractor trailer driver, Bellemare and Drew with respect to the negligence count against the state. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Because the plaintiff neither submitted a request to charge nor took an exception to the court's instruction in that regard, the Appellate Court declined to entertain the merits of the unpreserved claim. Given the plaintiff's noncompliance with the prerequisites to appellate review of his allegation of instructional impropriety, it could not be said that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion to set aside the verdict.