Dziedzic v. Pine Island Marina, LLC
Negligence cannot establish the requisite reasonable cause to open a judgment under Connecticut General Statutes §52-212. Pine Island Marina, LLC, exercised an option to terminate the employment contract of Jeff Dziedic due to the upcoming sale of the marina and refused to comply with its contractual obligation to pay Dziedic $75,000. Dziedzic's application for a prejudgment remedy was granted. Days later, Pine Island filed articles of dissolution with the Secretary of State. Dziedic filed a four count complaint alleging, inter alia, breach of contract. The defendant did not appear or respond. The plaintiff's motion for default was granted. The defendant did not appear at the ensuing hearing in damages. The court rendered judgment against the defendant awarding the plaintiff $150,000 in damages with attorneys' fees of $2161.50, costs of $377.12 plus prejudgment and post judgment interest. Almost four months later, the defendant filed a motion to open the judgment, alleging that it "was ill advised that it should take no action in this case on the basis that no judgment could be rendered against it because of the dissolution." The court denied the motion to open finding that the defendant failed to demonstrate reasonable cause for failing to appear and defend the action. The defendant appealed. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The defendant's failure to file its motion to open within 20 days of the notice of judgment precluded review of its claims other than whether the court improperly denied the defendant's motion to open and request to present testimony on that motion. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to open. The trial court found, and defendant did not dispute, that it received notice of the proceedings and made a conscious decision to ignore them. To the extent that the defendant's motion claimed, and an affidavit in support of its motion averred, that an unidentified party rendered legal advice that "was obviously error," it remained that such negligence could not establish the requisite reasonable cause to open a judgment under C.G.S. §52-212. The panel declined to review the second claim including because the defendant merely offered testimony and did not object or raise any distinct issue of law when the trial court indicated that it would "review the matter on the papers…"