WILLIAM O'BRIEN v. CITY OF NEW HAVEN, SC 20069
Judicial District of New Haven
Municipalities; Whether Plaintiff's Lawsuit Complied With Notice Requirement and Time Limitations of Municipal Employee Indemnification Statute, General Statutes § 7-101a. The plaintiff, the former tax assessor for the defendant city, brought this action pursuant to General Statutes § 7-101a (b), seeking indemnification for attorney's fees and costs he incurred while defending an action brought against him in 2010, which alleged misdeeds involving his duties as assessor. Section 7-101a (b) requires each municipality to “save harmless” any municipal employee from financial loss and expense, including legal fees and costs, arising out of a lawsuit alleging wilful or ultra vires acts on the part of the employee while acting in the discharge of his duties, unless judgment is rendered against the employee. The 2010 action concluded with a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor in 2015. The plaintiff filed a notice of his intent to seek indemnification from the defendant within four months of the judgment, and he brought the present action within six months of the judgment. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the action, claiming that the plaintiff's notice and action were untimely pursuant to § 7-101a (d), which provides that "[n]o action shall be maintained . . . unless such action is commenced within two years after the cause of action therefor arose nor unless" notice is given to the municipality of an intent to commence such action "within six months after such cause of action has accrued." Specifically, the defendant claimed that the term "cause of action" in § 7-101a (d) should be interpreted as the third party's action against the municipal employee, and thus referred to the 2010 tort action brought against the plaintiff, thus rendering the notice and present action untimely. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss and rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff on determining that the plaintiff's notice and action were timely filed within six months of the date that the tort action was resolved. The defendant appealed, and the Appellate Court (178 Conn. App. 469) affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court explained that a plain reading of the text of § 7-101a (d) and its relationship to other similar statutes revealed that the plaintiff's claim for indemnification accrued, and the notice and limitation periods began to run, when he first could have successfully held the defendant liable, which could not have occurred until the 2010 tort action was resolved in his favor, and that, therefore, the notice and action were timely filed. The defendant appeals, and the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court's judgment concluding that the plaintiff's lawsuit complied with the notice requirement and the time limitations set forth in § 7-101a (d).