2011 Ct. Sup. 10998
No. HDSP-160290Connecticut Superior Court Judicial District of Hartford, Housing Session at Hartford
May 13, 2011
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
HON. VERNON D. OLIVER.
This is a summary process action for possession of the subject premises at 410 Asylum Street, Unit 401, Hartford, CT. On May 2, 2011, the parties appeared before the court for trial on the one-count complaint.
The plaintiff alleges that as to the subject premises, on or about December 1, 2009, the defendant entered into a written renewable lease agreement with the plaintiff for the term of one year. The plaintiff asserts that the defendant took possession of the premises under the lease. The plaintiff’s complaint asserts that the defendant failed to pay the monthly rent due on January 1, 2011.
In her answer, the defendant disagreed with the parts of the complaint which allege that a written renewable lease agreement was entered into between the parties on or about December 1, 2009 and that the defendant failed to pay the rent due on January 1, 2011.
The court has weighed all the evidence and assessed the testimony and credibility of the witnesses and reaches the conclusions set forth herein by a fair preponderance of the evidence.
BURDEN OF PROOF
“While the plaintiff is entitled to every favorable inference that may be legitimately drawn from the evidence, and has the same right to submit a weak case as a strong one, the plaintiff must still sustain the burden of proof on the contested issues in the complaint and the defendant need not present any evidence to contradict it.” Lukas v. New Haven, 184 Conn. 205, 211 (1981). The general burden of proof in civil actions is on the plaintiff, who must prove all the essential elements of their cause of action by a fair preponderance of the evidence. Gulycz v. Stop Shop, 29 Conn.App. 519, 523, cert. denied, 224 Conn. 923 (1982). Failure to do so results in judgment for the defendant. Id. ” . . . [W]hat is necessarily implied [in an allegation] need not be expressly CT Page 10999 alleged.” Pamela B. v. Ment, 244 Conn. 296, 308 (1998).
STANDARD OF PROOF
The standard of proof in summary process actions, a fair preponderance of the evidence, is “properly defined as the better evidence, the evidence having the greater weight, the more convincing force in your mind.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Cross v. Huttenlocher, 185 Conn. 390, 394 (1981).
ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF THE CLAIM
To prevail on a claim for nonpayment of rent, the plaintiff must establish, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, the following essential elements: (1) a rental agreement; (2) that the plaintiff is the lessor or owner of the premises; (3) the address of the subject premises; (4) the amount of rent due to the plaintiff from the defendant; (5) when the rent was due to the plaintiff; (6) the date of nonpayment; (7) The service of the notice to quit, as well as its service date and termination date; and (8) that the defendant is still in possession. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 47a-15a et seq.
LEASES AS CONTRACTS-GENERALLY
“A lease is simply a type of contract and ordinary rules of contract interpretation and general rules of contract law apply to leases.” Warner Associates v. Logan, 50 Conn.App. 90, 94-95 (1998). “The rules governing contract formation are well settled. To form a valid and binding agreement contract in Connecticut, there must be a mutual understanding of the terms that are definite and certain between the parties . . . to constitute an offer and acceptance sufficient to create an enforceable contract, each must be found to be based on an identical understanding by the parties.” Duplissie v. Devino, 96 Conn.App. 673, 688, cert. denied, 280 Conn. 916 (2006). Mutual assent presents a question of fact. M.J. Daly Sons, Inc. v. West Haven, 66 Conn.App. 41, 48, cert. denied, 258 Conn. 944 (2001). Mutual assent is based on the parties written or spoken words or by other acts. Precision Mechanical Services, Inc. v. Shelton Yacht Cabana Club, Inc., 97 Conn.App. 258, 263, cert. denied, 280 Conn. 928 (2006).
“The admission of the truth of an allegation [in a] pleading is a judicial admission conclusive on the pleader.” Jones Destruction. Inc. v. Upjohn, 161 Conn. 191, 199 (1971). “An admission in pleading dispenses CT Page 11000 with proof, and is equivalent to proof.” (Citation omitted.) Patchen v. Delohery Hat Co., 82 Conn. 592, 594 (1909).
“[A] special defense is not an independent action; rather, it is an attempt to plead facts that are consistent with the allegations of the complaint to demonstrate, nonetheless, that the plaintiff has no cause of action.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Valentine v. LaBow, 95 Conn.App. 436, 447 n. 10 (2005), cert. denied, 280 Conn. 933
(2006). The defendants have the burden of proving the allegations in their special defenses by a fair preponderance of the evidence. Lodovico v. Mihalcik, superior court, judicial district of Hartford at Hartford, Docket No. CV-07-50130991 (August 17, 2010, Rittenband, J.T.R.).
“The fact-finding function is vested in the trial court with its unique opportunity to view the evidence presented in a totality of the circumstances, i.e., including its observations of the demeanor and conduct of the witnesses and parties.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Cavoli v. DeSimone, 88 Conn.App. 638, 646, cert. denied, 274 Conn. 906 (2005).
“It is well established that in cases tried before courts, trial judges are the sole arbiters of the credibility of witnesses and it is they who determine the weight to be given specific testimony . . . it is the quintessential function of the factfinder to reject or accept certain evidence . . .” (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) In re Antonio M., 56 Conn.App. 534, 540 (2000). “The sifting and weighing of evidence is peculiarly the function of the trier [of fact].”Smith v. Smith, 183 Conn. 121, 123 (1981). “[N]othing in our law is more elementary than that the trier [of fact] is the final judge of the credibility of witnesses and of the weight to be accorded to the testimony.” (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.)Toffolon v. Avon, 173 Conn. 525, 530 (1977). “The trier is free to accept or reject, in whole or in part, the testimony offered by either party.”Smith v. Smith, supra, 183 Conn. 123. “Then determination of credibility as a function of the trial court.” Heritage Square, LLC v. Eoanou, 61 Conn.App. 329, 333 (2001).
“[T]he trier is free to juxtapose conflicting versions of events and determine which is more credible . . . it is the trier’s exclusive province to weigh the conflicting evidence and determine the credibility of witnesses . . . the trier of fact may accept or reject the testimony CT Page 11001 of any witness . . . the trier can, as well, decide what — all, none, or some — of the witnesses’ testimony to accept or reject.” (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Osborne, 41 Conn.App. 287, 291 (1996). “The trial court’s function as the finder is to draw whatever inferences from the evidence or facts established by the evidence it deems to be reasonable and logical.” In re Christine F., 6 Conn.App. 360, 366, cert. denied 199 Conn. 808
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. The plaintiff is the owner of the subject premises;
2. The defendant resides at the subject premises;
3. On or about December 1, 2009, the parties entered into a written lease agreement for the premises for a one-year term for a monthly rent of $759.00 (Plaintiff’s Exhibit 3);
4. The term of the “2009 lease” expired November 30, 2010;
5. After November 30, 2010, the defendant testified credibly that she was told the plaintiff was “backed up” as to new lease agreements;
6. As of December 10, 2010, the defendant resided in the premises without a written lease agreement;
7. The operative document does not support the plaintiff’s assertion that the defendant resided in the premises under a renewable lease agreement (Plaintiff’s Exhibit 1, § 4(B) and (C);
8. The defendant testified credibly that at the expiration of the “2009 lease,” she did not know if she had a lease or when it would be signed or what the rent would be;
9. On December 1, 2010, the plaintiff charged the defendant $782.00 for December 2010 rent. There was no evidence submitted that the defendant was aware of the increased rental payment amount;
10. On December 13, the defendant submitted a payment of $759.00 in satisfaction of the December 2010 rent, based on the “2009 lease” rental agreement;
11. On January 1, 2011, the plaintiff charged the defendant $782.00 for January 2011 rent; CT Page 11002
12. On or after January 10, 2011, the defendant received an unsigned rental agreement for the one-year term starting December 1, 2010 (Plaintiff’s Exhibit 1);
13. The defendant signed the lease agreement and returned it to the plaintiff’s drop-box;
14. After dropping off the lease agreement, the defendant began to have second thoughts about the lease agreement vis a vis her personal finances;
15. On January 18, 2011, the defendant went to the plaintiff’s rental office and spoke with Michelle Tritto, a former employee of the plaintiff;
16. Before Ms. Tritto signed the contract, the defendant told her that she did not wish to enter into the lease agreement that is the subject of this action;
17. On January 18, 2011, Ms. Tritto signed the lease agreement over the objection of the defendant;
18. On January 19, 2011, the plaintiff served the defendant with a notice to quit the premises on or before January 23, 2011;
19. In February and March 2011, the plaintiff charged the defendant $782.00 per month for residential rent;
20. In April and May 2011, the plaintiff charged the defendant $759.00 per month for residential rent;
Based on all of the evidence adduced at trial, the court finds that the plaintiff has failed to establish, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, the mutual assent necessary to constitute an enforceable lease agreement between the parties for January 2011.
Accordingly, the court enters judgment for the defendant.
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