Capel v. Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation
As explained in the 1968 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Hoblitzelle v. Frechette, Connecticut appellate courts refuse to "entertain a reservation in an action which is not ready for final judgment unless the questions presented are such as are, in [its] opinion, reasonably certain to enter into the decision of the case and it appears that their determination would be in the interest of simplicity, directness and economy of judicial action." Sharon Capel, mother and next friend of Donte Capel, brought an action against Charles Ingala, alleging that a motor vehicle owned and operated by Ingala struck Donte Capel, causing severe bodily injuries. Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation declined to defend or indemnify Ingala asserting that he did not have a valid insurance policy with Plymouth at the time of the accident. Ingala appeared pro se and a default judgment entered against him. Following a hearing in damages, the court found that the plaintiff suffered $1,537,192 in compensatory damages. Damages were doubled under C.G.S. §14-294 and judgment entered against Ingala for $3,074,384. The plaintiff brought this multi-count action against Plymouth Rock alleging, inter alia, that Plymouth Rock breached its duties to defend and indemnify Ingala and acted in bad faith. The parties filed a stipulation with the trial court pursuant to Practice Book §73-1 setting forth a question for the advice of the Supreme Court. The trial court reserved the question of whether, under the circumstances, damages were limited to the limits of the putative liability policy of $300,000. The matter was transferred to the Appellate Court. The Appellate Court declined to answer the reserved question, determining that it was not reasonably certain to enter into the decision of the case. The parties disagreed whether Ingala was insured, and, hence, whether a contractual relationship existed between him and Plymouth Rock. Consequently, even if the Appellate Court were to answer the reserved question, the trial court nevertheless will have to determine whether Ingala was insured by Plymouth Rock prior to rendering its ultimate decision. If the trier of fact answers that query in the negative, then the Appellate Court's answer to the reserved question would not enter into the decision of the case. In essence, the reserved question requested an advisory opinion that the Appellate Court cannot provide.