ARTHUR IACURCI v. LARRY SAX et al., SC 19119

Judicial District of Fairfield

 

      Statutes of Limitations; Fraudulent Concealment; Fiduciary Relationships; Whether, Because Defendant Accountants and Plaintiff were not in a Fiduciary Relationship, Defendants did not have the Burden of Proving that the Statute of Limitations was not Tolled by the Fraudulent Concealment Statute.  The plaintiff brought this professional malpractice action against his former accountant, Larry Sax, and his accounting firm (collectively, the defendants), alleging that, after having identified the plaintiff as a real estate investor on his income tax returns for several years, Sax arbitrarily changed the plaintiff’s status to “an individual engaged in the business of real estate” and that this change caused the plaintiff to suffer adverse tax consequences.  The defendants moved for summary judgment, claiming that the action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations.  The trial court agreed and granted the motion.  On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court’s ruling was improper because the statute of limitations had been tolled by the fraudulent concealment statute, General Statutes § 52-595.  He maintained that, because he and the defendants had been in a fiduciary relationship, the defendants had the burden to prove that the elements of fraudulent concealment could not be established.  He opined that because the defendants had failed to satisfy their burden, the trial court should have denied the motion for summary judgment.  The Appellate Court (139 Conn. App. 386) disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s judgment, concluding that the plaintiff had failed to sustain his burden of demonstrating that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the parties were in a fiduciary relationship.  The court reasoned that the plaintiff hired the defendants merely to prepare his annual income tax returns and to provide advice concerning his tax liability, not to manage his personal or business affairs.  Accordingly, the court decided that the parties’ relationship did not involve a unique degree of trust and confidence.  The court further opined that the mere fact that the defendants had prepared the plaintiff’s tax returns for seventeen years and that the plaintiff trusted and had confidence in the defendants’ superior professional abilities did not alter the nature of the defendants’ services, which, the court opined, did not give rise to a fiduciary relationship.  To conclude otherwise, the court emphasized, would transform virtually every relationship involving the provision of professional services into a fiduciary relationship.  In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court’s decision to grant the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.