Aaron Manor, Inc. v. Irving
Connecticut General Statutes §42-150bb was designed to provide equitable results for a consumer who successfully defends an action under a commercial contract, which entitles the commercial party to attorneys' fees. Seeking to recover an unpaid balance of $27,340.00, Aaron Manor, Inc., a skilled nursing care facility, brought this action alleging breach of contract and fraud against Janet Irving. Irving had signed an admission agreement and other documents as the "responsible party" for her father, William Ammon, upon his admission to the plaintiff's facilities. She indicated that her brother, William Ammon, Jr., would be responsible for their father's financial matters. The plaintiff mailed monthly bills to William Ammon, Jr. who held a power of attorney for his father and paid bills from his father's bank account. Following trial, the court, relevantly, rendered judgment for Irving finding that she did not have a power of attorney for her father or access to his checking account or other financial resources and awarded Irving $36,000 in attorneys' fees under C.G.S. §42-150bb. The plaintiff appealed. The majority of the Appellate Court agreed with the plaintiff's claim that attorneys' fees were improperly awarded to Irving under C.G.S. §42-150bb. Irving appealed challenging the Appellate Court's conclusion that, to be a "personal representative" entitled to attorneys' fees under C.G.S. §42-150bb, she would have to be a legal representative of the consumer, her father. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment, in part. The scope of the term "personal representative" from C.G.S. §42-150bb did not need to be resolved. The plaintiff brought this action against the defendant alleging that she has a status under the contract that renders her legally responsible for her father's debt. Had the plaintiff prevailed, it clearly would have been entitled, under the contract, to attorneys' fees. It would be wholly incongruous with the statutory design in C.G.S. §42-150bb to conclude that the plaintiff would be entitled to fees for successfully prosecuting this action but that Irving would not be entitled to fees for mounting a successful defense. The trial court properly determined that Irving was a consumer under C.G.S. §42-150bb because she was the personal representative of the buyer, her father, and was entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees. The record was inadequate to review the plaintiff's alternate claim that the fee award was unreasonable.