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DUI LAW: Appellate Court Addresses Award of Interest

In its decision released July 17, 2012, in part the Appellate Court stated:


To encourage the settlement of civil cases, General Statutes § 52-192a imposes sanctions on litigants who reject reasonable settlement offers by authorizing a trial court to order the payment of interest on a judgment if the amount recovered by the plaintiff exceeds or is equal to an offer of compromise tendered by the plaintiff and rejected by the defendant. See, e.g.,  Branford v. Santa Barbara, 294 Conn. 803, 816, 988 A.2d 221 (2010). The dispositive issue in this appeal is whether, pursuant to § 52-192a, the trial court properly awarded interest on the $250,000 judgment rendered against the defendants in an action brought under General Statutes § 30-102,  commonly known as the Dram Shop Act. We affirm the judgment of the court.

In a complaint filed on May 26, 2009, the plaintiff,  James LaPlante, alleged, pursuant to the Dram Shop Act, that the defendants, Joseph A. Malick, Jr., and Piggy’s Cafe´, Inc., were liable for damages that the plaintiff sustained as the result of a motor vehicle accident caused by Ivan Vasquez, Jr., a patron of Piggy’s Cafe´. The defendants denied liability. After a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $4.2 million,  the court awarded the plaintiff damages in the amount of $250,000, the maximum amount recoverable under the Dram Shop Act. In addition, the court awarded the plaintiff offer of compromise interest pursuant to § 52-  192a in the amount of $35,000 and costs. The plaintiff has appealed, and the defendants have cross appealed.  The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. The plaintiff was a Connecticut state trooper. On July 19, 2008, at approximately 2:15 a.m., the plaintiff parked and exited his police cruiser in the vicinity of exit 48, westbound, on Interstate 84, to attend to an Acura automobile that was pulled over on the right side of the highway. The plaintiff stood between the passenger side of the Acura and a concrete bridge abutment to speak to the Acura’s occupants.  At the same time, Ivan Vasquez, Jr., was driving his Ford pickup truck westbound on the highway. He was intoxicated, having just celebrated his birthday at Piggy’s Cafe´, a bar in Hartford owned and operated by the defendants. While at Piggy’s Cafe´, Vasquez had been served alcohol.  As the plaintiff stood next to the passenger side of the Acura, the truck operated by Vasquez struck the plaintiff’s police cruiser, which was parked behind the Acura. The truck veered or was propelled left across the travel lanes of the highway. The truck hit the jersey barriers on the left side of the highway and careened back across the travel lanes to the right side of the highway, smashing into the driver side of the Acura.  The force of the collision pinned the plaintiff between the passenger side of the Acura and the concrete bridge abutment, crushing and fracturing the plaintiff’s legs and injuring his back, abdomen and other parts of his body.

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The plaintiff claims that the amount of offer of compromise interest the court awarded him was improper.  Specifically, he claims that the court should have calculated the award by reference to the jury’s verdict of $4.2 million, rather than by reference to the court’s judgment of $250,000. The defendants argue to the contrary. We conclude, in light of the plain language of § 52-192a (c), that the court awarded the plaintiff the legally correct amount of interest.

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To read the full text of the court ruling see: