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Tort Law Appellate Court Opinion

by Penn, Michele


AC40736 - Tatoian v. Tyler ("The plaintiff, Richard Tatoian, in his capacity as trustee of the Ruth B. Tyler Irrevocable Trust, brought the underlying vexatious litigation action against the defendants, Bruce D. Tyler (Bruce Tyler) and Jay M. Tyler (Jay Tyler). The defendants are among the beneficiaries of the trust. In 2010, Jay Tyler commenced an action (prior action) against, among others, the plaintiff and Bruce Tyler. Jay Tyler named the plaintiff as a defendant in all seven counts of his complaint, but counts three through seven of the complaint were brought against the plaintiff exclusively. Essentially, with respect to the plaintiff, Jay Tyler alleged in his complaint that, in a variety of ways, the plaintiff had performed deficiently as trustee and sought money damages and equitable relief. In 2011, Bruce Tyler brought a cross complaint in the prior action. All four counts of the cross complaint, which was brought against the plaintiff exclusively, are nearly identical to the claims raised in counts four through seven of the complaint. Bruce Tyler sought, inter alia, money damages. After the plaintiff prevailed in the prior action, he commenced the present action, sounding in common-law and statutory vexatious litigation, for, inter alia, attorney's fees and costs he incurred, on behalf of the trust, in defending himself in the prior action. Following a court trial in the present action, the trial court found that the defendants lacked probable cause to bring one of the claims against the plaintiff in the prior action. Accordingly, the court rendered judgment in part in the plaintiff's favor and awarded him a portion of the attorney's fees and costs he incurred in defending the prior action.

The defendants appeal from the judgment of the trial court and raise the following claims: (1) the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's causes of action because he lacked standing at the time of the commencement of the present action; (2) the court improperly failed to consider whether the settlor of the trust, Ruth B. Tyler (Ruth Tyler), was subjected to undue influence in connection with the creation of the trust; (3) the court misinterpreted relevant law in its analysis of whether, in the prior action, the defendants had probable cause to claim that the plaintiff had violated General Statutes ยง 45a-541c by failing to diversify trust assets; and (4) the court misinterpreted relevant law in its analysis of whether the plaintiff could prevail in the present action merely by demonstrating that the defendants lacked probable cause to bring one of the claims that they brought against him in the prior action.

The plaintiff cross appeals from the judgment of the trial court. He claims that, although the court properly concluded that one of the claims raised against him by the defendants in the prior action was not supported by probable cause, the court erroneously failed to conclude that the defendants lacked probable cause to bring the remaining claims and had acted with malice in bringing the claims.

We disagree with the claims raised in the defendants' appeal but agree, in part, with the claim raised in the plaintiff's cross appeal. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.")