GETTY PROPERTIES CORP. v. ATKR, LLC, SC 19298/19299/19300/19301/19302

Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk


      Summary Process; Bankruptcy; Whether Trial Court Lacked Subject Matter Jurisdiction Due to Defects in Notices to Quit; Whether Court Properly Found that Plaintiffs had Standing to Bring Actions; Whether Court Properly Interpreted Bankruptcy Proceedings as Terminating Defendants' Leasehold Interests. The defendants operate gasoline service stations in Connecticut, which are owned by the plaintiff, Getty Properties Corp. (Getty).  Getty leased the properties to Getty Petroleum Marketing, Inc. (GPMI), by way of a "master lease."  GPMI subleased the properties to another entity, which, in turn, entered into sub-subleases with the defendants.  All of the leases state that they automatically terminate upon the termination of the leases that are above them in the chain.  In 2011, Getty notified GPMI that it intended to terminate the master lease for nonpayment of rent.  GPMI filed for bankruptcy, which led to a stipulated agreement approved by the Bankruptcy Court that ostensibly provided that the master lease would be rejected and terminated such that Getty would reacquire the properties free and clear of all encumbrances.  The plaintiff and NECG Holdings Corp. (NECG) then served notices to quit on the defendants and brought these summary process actions, claiming they were entitled to immediate possession because the defendants had no right to occupy the premises.  The trial court rendered judgments of possession for the plaintiffs.  The defendants appeal, claiming that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over these actions because the notices to quit were defective in that they were not personally signed by the plaintiff’s attorney, but rather signed on behalf of the attorney by an associate.  The defendants argue that General Statutes § 47a-23 does not allow an attorney to delegate signing authority to another.  The defendants also argue that, on the date that the notices to quit were served, NECG had not yet obtained a certificate of authority to transact business in this state and that General Statutes § 33-921 (a) therefore prohibited it from maintaining some of these actions.  In addition, they claim that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the actions because the subleases were assets of GPMI's bankruptcy estate on the date the notices to quit were served and that the trial court wrongly interpreted the bankruptcy proceedings as terminating their leasehold interests.  Among the defendants’ other claims are that the master lease improperly was admitted into evidence over their objection that the document was missing several key subsidiary documents and that the plaintiffs should not have prevailed at trial where they failed to prove the chain of real estate possession and that each link in the chain was properly terminated.