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Tort Law Supreme Court Opinion

by Penn, Michele


SC20122 - Rutter v. Janis (Negligence; "Subject to certain requirements, General Statutes § 14-60 (a) permits motor vehicle dealers to temporarily loan a dealer license plate to, inter alia, the purchaser of one of their vehicles while that purchaser's registration is pending, but "for not more than thirty days in any year . . . ." The dispositive issue in this certified appeal is whether, for purposes of calculating that thirty day period, the "first day" is the date on which the dealer loans the plate to the purchaser or the first full calendar day thereafter.

Following a fatal motor vehicle accident, the plaintiffs in this joint appeal, Casey Leigh Rutter, Nancy Beale, as administratrix of the estate of Lindsey Beale, and Jason Ferreira, each commenced an action against the defendant Danbury Fair Hyundai, LLC, a motor vehicle dealer whose dealer license plate was displayed on one of the vehicles involved in the accident. The trial court concluded that the accident occurred on the last day of the thirty day limitation period of § 14-60 (a) because the day during which the defendant loaned the plate was not included in the calculation of the thirty day period. The Appellate Court agreed and affirmed the judgments of the trial court; see Rutter v. Janis, 180 Conn. App. 1, 5, 182 A.3d 85 (2018); and we granted certification, limited to the issue of whether the Appellate Court correctly excluded the date of the loan when calculating the thirty day loan period. See Rutter v. Janis, 329 Conn. 904, 185 A.3d 594 (2018).

We agree with the Appellate Court that the day of the loan does not count toward the thirty day limitation period of § 14-60 (a). In particular, we conclude that the legislature's unqualified use of the term "days"—a term that has a well established legal meaning in our jurisprudence—indicates that it intended the thirty day period to be measured in terms of full calendar days. Therefore, because the day of the loan was a "fraction" of a day rather than a full calendar day, it must be excluded. This construction is consistent with this court's long recognized policy that, when calculating statutory and other deadlines, "the day of the act from which a future time is to be ascertained . . . is to be excluded from the calculation . . . ." Weeks v. Hull, 19 Conn. 376, 382 (1849). This court established, and has consistently adhered to, this rule as a matter of policy in order to ensure uniformity and predictability in the computation of deadlines, and we see no reason why it should not be applied to § 14-60 (a). Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.")