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Tort Law Supreme Court Slip Opinion

by Agati, Taryn


SC20597 - Solon v. Slater ("This appeal requires us to decide the scope of the preclusive effect, in a subsequent tort action in the Superior Court, of an unappealed Probate Court decree admitting a will to probate. The plaintiff, Linda Yoffe Solon, filed the present lawsuit against the defendants, Joseph M. Slater and Joshua Solon, alleging that they tortiously interfered with her contractual relations and right of inheritance by exercising undue influence over her husband, Michael Solon (decedent), with respect to two different legal instruments, a proposed amendment to an antenuptial agreement and a testamentary will. The trial court rendered summary judgment in favor of the defendants, concluding in pertinent part that both of the plaintiff’s tortious interference claims were barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel because the Probate Court previously had admitted the decedent’s will to probate after rejecting the plaintiff’s claim that the decedent executed the will as a result of the defendants’ undue influence. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. See Solon v. Slater, 204 Conn. App. 647, 665, 253 A.3d 503 (2021).

The issue before us is whether both of the plaintiff’s tortious interference claims in her civil tort action are barred by either the doctrine of collateral estoppel, as the courts below concluded, or the doctrine of res judicata, which the defendants have raised as an alternative ground for affirmance. We conclude that neither preclusion doctrine bars the plaintiff from litigating her tortious interference with contractual relations claim, which relates to the proposed amended antenuptial agreement, because the Probate Court did not actually or necessarily determine whether the defendants tortiously interfered with that contract and the plaintiff lacked an opportunity to litigate her claim in the Probate Court. We arrive at a different conclusion with respect to the plaintiff’s tortious interference with her right of inheritance claim because the Probate Court actually and necessarily determined that the defendants had not tortiously interfered with the execution, alteration, or revocation of the will admitted to probate, and the plaintiff therefore is collaterally estopped from relitigating that claim. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court in part and remand the case for further proceedings on the plaintiff’s tortious interference with contractual relations claim.")