D'Appollonio v. Griffo-Brandao
The nonjoinder of a party will generally implicate the court's subject matter jurisdiction and require dismissal if a statute mandates the naming and serving of the party; however, the Connecticut Supreme Court in the 1981 case of Swenson v. Ditner, established that the failure to join such parties in an action to quiet title under C.G.S. §47-31 does not constitute error. The plaintiffs, Americo D'Appollonio, Jr., and Carmela D'Appollonio, own lot 4 in a residential subdivision adjacent to lot 13 owned by the defendant, Sarina Griffo-Brandao. Griffo-Brandao and her father, the defendant Pasquale Griffo, partially constructed two retaining walls in an easement area located on Griffo-Brandao's property. The easement permits ingress and egress for lot 4 and lots 2 and 3 owned, respectively, by Lambrine Sideriadis and Diana Hughes. The plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging, essentially, that the defendants' construction of the retaining walls deprived the plaintiffs of the use of the easement area. The defendants filed an answer and asserted counterclaims. Following a trial to the court, judgment entered for the defendants on the complaint and on the second count of the counterclaim. The plaintiffs were ordered to remove certain plantings and encroachments from the easement. The plaintiffs appealed claiming, first, that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute because Sideriadis and Hughes were indispensable parties who were never joined in the action. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The unpreserved challenge to the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction was properly before the Appellate Court. However, the trial court possessed the necessary subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter. The failure to join a party who may claim an interest does not defeat the jurisdiction of the court unless a statute or due process mandates otherwise. The statutory mandate found in C.G.S. §47-31, although on its face mandates joinder, is subject to an exception drawn by the Supreme Court which permits such an action to proceed in the absence of some parties. The failure to join Sideriadis and Hughes did not violate their due process rights. Further, the trial court did not err, as claimed, in determining that the plaintiffs consented to the construction of the retaining walls or in concluding that the plaintiffs' plantings violated the terms of the easement.