Moran v. Morneau
In a foreclosure action, a default judgment did not definitively establish the lien priority order alleged in the complaint; a default may settle many issues, but it does not operate to insulate a mistaken legal proposition from judicial review. Michel Moran filed this action to foreclose a judgment lien held on property of Ricky Morneau. She alleged that she recorded, on the relevant land records, a notice of constructive trust of the subject property on July 17, 2003 and a prejudgment attachment on May 28, 2004. She successfully prosecuted a breach of contract action against Morneau and was awarded $63,061 plus interest. She recorded the judgment lien on Feb. 15, 2006. Chase Home Finance, LLC, is the assignee and successor in interest to a promissory note and mortgage deed recorded on the land records on Aug. 22, 2003. The plaintiff alleged that her attachment and judgment lien related back to her July 2003 notice of constructive trust giving her claim priority over that of Chase. Chase was defaulted for failing to appear. Chase filed motions including to open the default and to determine priorities. The court did not open the default but issued an order that Chase's position was first in priority. Ultimately, following a judgment of strict foreclosure, the plaintiff appealed claiming that Chase's default established the priority order alleged in the complaint and that the trial court had no discretion, after the default, to review the plaintiff's legal conclusions regarding the effect of the filing of the notice of constructive trust. The Appellate Court disagreed and affirmed the judgment. Because the factual allegations in the complaint, even if true, did not, as a matter of law, establish that the plaintiff held the first priority, Chase's default did not operate "to reify," or bring into existence, the plaintiff's erroneous legal conclusions. There was no legal basis for relating either the judgment lien or the prejudgment attachment back to the filing of the notice of constructive trust. Under C.G.S. §52-380a(b), the plaintiff's judgment lien related back to May 28, 2004, the alleged date of the filing of the prejudgment attachment. From that date forward, the plaintiff's lien would enjoy priority over any subsequent claim to the attached property.