Cornelius v. Rosario
Connecticut General Statutes §12-159 plainly and unambiguously provides that a person may contest the validity of a tax sale by showing that notice was not properly provided to that party's predecessor in title in accordance with C.G.S. §12-157(a). Frederick Cornelius initiated this action to quiet title and to nullify a tax sale of property in Hartford claiming that the parcel was illegally seized and sold without notice as required by C.G.S. §12-157. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants, the city of Hartford and its then tax collector, Lydia Rosario, based on claims that the plaintiff had failed to record his deed and C.G.S. §12-157(a) only requires notice to those with recorded interests. The court denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment challenging the notice provided to the plaintiff's predecessor in title, Mercury Mortgage Company, Inc. The plaintiff appealed claiming that the court erred, including by determining that he lacked standing to challenge the adequacy of notice to Mercury. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Although the plaintiff had standing to challenge the adequacy of notice to his predecessor in title under C.G.S. §12-159, the trial court did not err in determining that the defendants satisfied the notice requirements of C.G.S. §12-157(a) as to Mercury. Timely notice was sent via certified mail to Mercury. The notice was returned as undeliverable. Searches confirmed that Mercury's mailing address was accurate. Mercury's agent for service of process had resigned and lacked a replacement. The defendants posted notice in city hall and the newspaper and sent other notices to Mercury's counsel. The trial court concluded that subsequent notices to Mercury would have been futile. C.G.S. §12-157(a) does not specify that notice be sent to the property subject to the sale. The steps taken were found to satisfy the requirements of C.G.S. §12-157(a) and due process considerations. The trial court did not err in concluding that the plaintiff's interest in the property was not reasonably ascertainable given his failure to record his deed. Further, the court did not err in not permitting the plaintiff to testify in support of his motion for summary judgment. Practice Book §17-45 indicates that only documentary evidence is appropriate to support a motion for summary judgment.