JOSEPH ABREU v. KARISSA LEONE, SC 18048

Judicial District of New Britain

 

Appellate Jurisdiction; Final Judgment; Discovery Orders; In Action to Obtain Protective Order and Quash Subpoena, Whether Order Directing Deponent to Answer Specified Questions at Deposition was Final Judgment. Karissa Leone, through her next friend, filed with the state claims commissioner a notice of claim alleging that she had sustained injuries by being pushed by another minor at school. For purposes of establishing that the commissioner of the department of children and families (DCF) was the guardian of the other child, Leone served the child's alleged foster father, Joseph Abreu, with a notice of deposition and a subpoena, ordering him to bring documents in his possession relating to his alleged foster child and verifying that this child was residing with him on the date of the incident. Subsequently, Abreu commenced this action, seeking to obtain a protective order and to quash the subpoena. He claimed that he was prohibited from testifying about or disclosing the information sought by Leone pursuant to the confidentiality provisions of General Statutes 17a-28 (b). The state was granted intervenor status in support of Abreu's claim. Although the court determined that any records that concerned DCF's protection activities relating to a child while the child was in its care could not be sought or disclosed, it ruled that Leone was not prohibited from conducting a deposition since she might seek information that was not in violation of 17a-28 (b). At the deposition that followed, Abreu declined to answer several questions that he claimed violated 17a-28 (b). Subsequently, Leone filed a motion requesting monetary sanctions as well as a court order that Abreu appear at a new deposition and answer questions not in violation of the court's order. Abreu responded by filing a cross motion for sanctions, seeking, in addition to monetary sanctions, an order prohibiting any further deposition. The court determined that Abreu was not prohibited from answering questions relating to his status as a foster parent or about his personal observations or opinions about the child; it also identified six questions that he must answer if asked and ordered that further questions about Abreu's personal observations or opinions must also be answered if asked. Although the court did not order a new deposition or impose sanctions, it retained jurisdiction to issue sanctions "should further discovery in accordance with this ruling be obstructed." Subsequently, the state filed a motion to reargue, which was denied. Thereafter, the state appealed from the order directing Abreu to answer questions and from the denial of its motion to reargue. The Appellate Court, on its own motion, notified the parties to appear at a hearing to address whether the appeal should be dismissed for lack of a final judgment, citing Barbato v. J & M Corporation, 194 Conn. 245 (1984) and Presidential Capital Corporation v. Reale, 240 Conn. 623 (1997). Following the hearing, the Appellate Court dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court will now decide whether the appeal was properly dismissed.