Avoletta v. State
Legislation that authorizes parents to sue the State of Connecticut for tuition reimbursement for their children and that does not include a public purpose may constitute a public emolument. The plaintiff parents alleged that the defendant, the State of Connecticut, failed to enforce federal and state laws that require a free and appropriate public education for children in a safe school environment. Allegedly, the middle school and high school in the plaintiffs' municipality were not properly repaired and maintained, and the indoor air quality was not adequate, because the buildings had bacteria, water leaks and mold. The plaintiffs placed their children in private schools, then requested tuition reimbursement. Even if the plaintiffs' date of harm was in 2005, when their request for another school placement was denied, and the state failed to inform the plaintiffs about the right to appeal in 2005, their 2007 claim to the State of Connecticut claims commissioner was not filed timely. The plaintiffs maintained that they were unaware they possessed an actionable cause of action until 2006, when they hired counsel. After the State of Connecticut claims commissioner dismissed the parents' claims, because they were not filed timely, within one year, the legislature passed legislation that authorized the parents to sue the state. The legislation did not include a public purpose. The court found that the legislature granted the plaintiffs the right to sue pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §4-159(b). The statute provides in part, "The General Assembly shall: (1) With respect to a decision of the Claims Commissioner ordering the denial or dismissal of a claim . . . (B) Vacate the decision and . . . authorize the claimant to sue the state." Article First of the Connecticut Constitution provides, "[N]o man or set of men are entitled to exclusive public emoluments or privileges from the community." The legislative enactment constituted a public emolument. "Allowing the plaintiffs to file suit directly in this matter, when this court has determined that their action was untimely," wrote the court, "provides them a right unavailable to other parties." The court granted the state's motion to dismiss.