MICHAEL FLATER et al. v. KEVIN M. GRACE et al., SC 18253
Judicial District of Hartford
Contracts; Whether Default Judgment Resulted From Fraudulent Misrepresentations Concerning Cost of Repair; Whether Damages were Properly Calculated. The plaintiffs contracted with the defendant, a home improvement contractor, for the addition of a three-season room and deck to their Simsbury home. After completing approximately three-quarters of the work, the defendant abandoned the job and never returned. The plaintiffs brought this suit against the defendant alleging breach of contract, unjust enrichment, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and a violation of CUTPA. They claimed, among other things, that they had paid the defendant $26,231, that the defendant failed to complete the work, and that the work completed was substandard and did not conform to the town's building code. While they claimed damages in excess of $15,000 in their prayer for relief, the plaintiffs also alleged that, as a result of the defendant's CUTPA violation, they had suffered damages "including but not limited to the expenditure of an additional [$7,075] to rectify [the] breaches of contract." The defendant was defaulted for failure to plead. The plaintiffs subsequently filed a motion for judgment dated May 3, 2007, attaching a 2004 estimate that again indicated that it would cost $7,075 to complete the job. The motion for judgment was never acted on, and the matter proceeded to a hearing in damages on May 7, 2007. The defendant did not attend the hearing in damages. At the hearing, the plaintiffs testified that they had been advised that the defendant's work could not be repaired and had to be replaced, and they produced estimates of $66,600 and $69,000 to rebuild the room and deck. The court rendered judgment for the plaintiffs for $92,831, representing a return of the $26,231 they had paid the defendant plus $66,600 to replace the defendant's work. The defendant filed this appeal following the denial of his motion to open the judgment. The defendant argues that he was fraudulently induced into choosing not to defend against the action by the initial estimates that it would take $7,075 to complete the job and that the estimates of $66,600 and $69,000 proffered at the hearing in damages were excessive. The defendant also contends that the trial court erred in calculating the plaintiffs' damages and that they were entitled to no more than the return of the money they paid him plus the cost of restoring their property to its original condition.