THE METROPOLITAN DISTRICT COMMISSION v. MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC., et al., SC 20814

Judicial District of Hartford

 

       Sewer Assessment Liens; Whether Appellate Court Correctly Determined That Trial Court Erred by Ordering Discharge of Sewer Lien Imposed Pursuant to General Statutes § 7-249. The plaintiff, the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), entered into an agreement with the state of Connecticut, authorizing the state to install a new sewer main for a development project in downtown Hartford. The state’s subcontractors constructed the sewer main along with a lateral sewer line connecting the sewer main to a newly constructed hotel. Several years after the hotel opened, the MDC commenced this action against the state and Marriott International, Inc. (Marriott), a hotel franchisor, claiming that the hotel’s connection to the sewer main was performed without a permit or an inspection by the MDC, and that, as a result, the state was liable for all costs associated with the maintenance and repair of the sewer main. While the civil action was pending, the MDC commenced a parallel administrative proceeding seeking to levy a special benefit assessment on the hotel property pursuant to General Statutes § 7-249 in an amount equal to the damages amount sought in the civil action. The assessment was approved, and Marriott did not appeal the assessment pursuant to General Statues § 7-250, nor did it pay the assessment. The MDC thus filed a lien on the hotel’s land records. Thereafter, Marriott moved for summary judgment in the civil action, which the trial court granted.  The trial court found that the claims against Marriott were barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that the MDC had sued the wrong party, as Marriott did not own, manage, or do business as the hotel, nor was it a party to any written agreement involving the MDC. Following the trial court’s grant of summary judgment, Marriott asked MDC to release the lien. The MDC refused, claiming that the lien did not have any relationship to the civil action. Subsequently, Marriott filed a postjudgment motion requesting that the trial court find the MDC in contempt and order the discharge of the lien. The trial court declined to hold the MDC in contempt but ordered the discharge of the lien, and the MDC appealed to the Appellate Court. On appeal, the MDC claimed that the trial court lacked both subject matter jurisdiction and authority to discharge the lien and that the trial court's ruling constituted an unlawful end run around § 7-250. The Appellate Court (216 Conn. App. 154) reversed in part, ruling that the trial court acted in excess of its authority and abused its discretion by ordering the discharge of the sewer lien. In so ruling, the Appellate Court determined that the relative merits of the civil action had no bearing on the validity of the MDC’s separate and distinct administrative authority to levy a sewer assessment pursuant to § 7-249 and that the exclusive method to challenge the assessment was to file an appeal pursuant to § 7-250. Furthermore, the court found the trial court’s discharge of the lien could not be construed as a proper exercise of its inherent authority to issue orders necessary to protect its prior judgment or its authority to discharge a lien because allowing the MDC to file the lien and potentially foreclose on it would not undermine the trial court’s final judgment. In this certified appeal by Marriott, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court correctly determined that the trial court had erred by ordering the discharge of a sewer assessment lien imposed pursuant to General Statutes § 7-249.