JANET D. HEUSSNER v. ANASTASIA HEUSSNER, SC 17979

JANET D. HEUSSNER v.  APPEAL FROM PROBATE, SC 17980

Judicial District of Fairfield

 

      Probate; Service of Process; Whether Trial Court Lacked Jurisdiction to Hear Plaintiff's Appeals From Probate Because Plaintiff Failed to Return Process to  Trial Court Within Time Limit Set Forth in General Statutes § 52-48 (b).

In 2002, the probate court determined that the plaintiff's mother, Anastasia Heussner (the ward) was incapable of managing her affairs and appointed the ward's son and her former guardian ad litem as co-conservators of her estate.  In 2006, the probate court issued two decrees, the first of which authorized the co-conservators to mortgage the ward's home and the second authorized them to sell certain tangible items of the ward's personal property at a private auction.  The plaintiff subsequently moved for permission to appeal from both decrees, and the probate court granted her motions.  The probate court further ordered that notice of the appeals be served upon the co-conservators in the manner prescribed for the service of civil process at least twelve days before the return date of September 20, 2006.  In November of 2006, the co-conservators moved to dismiss the appeals.  They argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeals because the plaintiff failed to return process to the trial court in accordance with the order of the probate court and the rules governing the service of process in civil actions.  The plaintiff, in turn, asked the probate court to amend the return dates.  In opposition, the co-conservators argued that there was no process to amend and that, even if there were, the time allowed for an amendment had passed.  Rejecting this argument, the probate court granted the plaintiff's request and set an amended return date of January 16, 2007.  In ruling on the co-conservators' motions to dismiss, the trial court stated that pursuant to General Statutes § 52-48 (b) and Coppola v. Coppola, 243 Conn. 657 (1998), a plaintiff's failure to return process to the court within two months after service on the defendants implicates the court's subject matter jurisdiction and that this rule applies to probate appeals.  The court then found that the probate court's amended return date for these appeals exceeded the two month time limit set forth in § 52-48 (b) and granted the motions to dismiss.  The Supreme Court will now determine whether the trial court properly dismissed the plaintiff's probate appeals.