Judicial District of Hartford


Sovereign Immunity; Public Works Contracts; Notice; Whether the Trial Court Properly Dismissed a Construction Company's Claim Under a Public Works Contract on the Ground that the Company did not Satisfy the Notice Requirements of General Statutes 4-61. In 1998, the plaintiff entered into a contract with the state department of public works to construct certain buildings at Manchester Community College. After disputes arose in connection with the project, the plaintiff initiated this action pursuant to General Statutes 4-61, which authorizes a party who has entered into a public works contract with the state to bring an action against it to resolve any disputes arising under the contract, provided that "notice of each such claim under such contract and the factual bases for each such claim shall have been given in writing to the agency head of the department administering the contract. . . ." The state moved to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, arguing that the plaintiff had failed to comply with the notice requirements of 4-61. In granting the motion, the trial court determined that such requirements are satisfied only where the complaining party expressly informs the agency head in writing that it intends to pursue a claim for damages, either by way of a civil action or an arbitration proceeding. Simply providing the agency head with certain details about a contract dispute, the court opined, would be insufficient to satisfy the notice requirements. The court then applied the foregoing principles to the documents that the plaintiff claimed amounted to sufficient notice under 4-61. It first examined a letter dated August 31, 2001, which, the court determined, was insufficient in that it was not sent to the commissioner of public works and that it merely requested an "equitable adjustment" to the contract. It further decided that an April 15, 2004 letter to the commissioner, which referred to the August 31, 2001 letter and requested that the plaintiff be paid what it was allegedly owed, failed to provide the factual bases for the plaintiff's claim and failed to state that the plaintiff intended to pursue a formal claim as opposed to an informal settlement process. Finally, the court rejected the plaintiff's contention that it satisfied the statutory notice requirements when it served upon the commissioner a complaint dated July 6, 2005, which advanced a claim under the public works contract but was never returned to court. It reasoned that, in the absence of some special legislative provision, the service of a complaint does not satisfy statutory notice requirements. It further determined that the July 6, 2005 complaint did not provide the factual bases for the plaintiff's claim and that the evidence failed to establish that the complaint was served upon the commissioner. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the plaintiff satisfied the notice requirements of 4-61.