The mission of the Connecticut Judicial Branch is to serve the interests of justice and the public by resolving matters brought before it in a fair, timely, efficient and open manner.

Tort Law Supreme Court Opinion

by Penn, Michele


SC20079 - Netscout Systems, Inc. v. Gartner, Inc. ("The plaintiff, NetScout Systems, Inc., is in the business of developing and selling information technology products that allow its customers to manage, monitor, diagnose and service their computer networks. The defendant, Gartner, Inc., publishes research reports in which it rates vendors, such as the plaintiff, that sell and service various forms of information technology. The defendant also sells consulting services to some of the vendors that it rates. In 2014, the defendant issued a research report (2014 report), in which it ranked the plaintiff lower than some of its competitors and made critical comments about the plaintiff. Thereafter, the plaintiff brought this action alleging that the defendant had engaged in a 'pay to play' scheme, in which it rewarded vendors that purchased consulting services from the defendant by giving them high ratings in its research reports. The plaintiff claimed that the alleged pay to play scheme constituted a false and deceptive business practice under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), General Statutes § 42-110a et seq., and that the 2014 report contained false and defamatory statements about the plaintiff. The defendant, in response, raised a defense premised on the theory that its rankings and commentary were protected speech under the first amendment to the United States constitution.

The trial court agreed with the defendant. The court concluded that the defendant's 2014 report was constitutionally protected speech, and the plaintiff, as a limited purpose public figure, was required to present evidence that the defendant had acted with actual malice. The court found that the plaintiff had failed to do so and, accordingly, rendered summary judgment for the defendant with respect to both claims on that ground. The court also determined that the CUTPA claim failed because the plaintiff had not presented evidence to support the factual predicate for its pay to play allegation due to its own expert witness' inability to conclude that the defendant's ratings were correlated to the dollar volume of consulting services that the vendors had purchased from the defendant. The plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court, and we transferred the appeal to this court pursuant to General Statutes § 51-199 (c) and Practice Book § 65-1.

We affirm the trial court's judgment on the alternative ground that all of the defendant's statements regarding the plaintiff were nonactionable expressions of opinion.")