RKG Management, LLC v. Roswell Sedona Associates, Inc.
Although the Connecticut Supreme Court has not explicitly cloaked the right of cross-examination in the civil context in constitutional raiment, dicta from one opinion points in that direction and, whether constitutional or not, the teaching of such precedents and the tradition upon which they are founded is that the right to cross-examination is central to our system of justice and its complete denial entitles the party adversely affected to have testimony untested by cross-examination stricken. RKG Management, LLC sought to foreclose a mechanic's lien filed on property then owned by Roswell Sedona Associates, Inc., or its successors in title, Thomas Killackey and the Maidenstone Trust, claiming it supplied materials, labor and services in making improvements on the property pursuant to a contract and was owed $100,032, exclusive of interest and costs. The defendants' answer asserted, inter alia, that the plaintiff had not performed the services in a workmanlike manner and according to contract terms. Affirmative defenses and a counterclaim were asserted. At trial, Richard Gillotte, the plaintiff's sole member, testified on direct and was questioned regarding documents marked as full exhibits. Gillotte never resumed testifying. He first claimed a medical condition and, thereafter, he failed to return to court, claiming he would lose his job if he took off more time. A document purporting to be an affidavit of debt was offered over the defendants' objections. The court denied the defendants' motions to dismiss and rendered a partial judgment as to liability, finding the value of services rendered was $40,130. The defendants appealed from the court's judgment of strict foreclosure claiming that the court deprived them of the right to cross-examine the plaintiff's key witness and refused to grant the defendants' request to strike Gillotte's testimony. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment. The court should have stricken Gillotte's testimony. The defendants were deprived of a fair opportunity to cross-examine a crucial witness against them and to probe the accuracy, completeness or probative impact of any of the documents, admitted through Gillotte's testimony, which were later utilized by the court. Without that opportunity and absent a showing that Gillotte's testimony was merely cumulative, the court's failure to strike Gillotte's testimony could not be viewed as harmless.