JOHN SEQUENZIA et al. v. GUERRIERI MASONRY, INC., et al., SC 18364

Judicial District of Hartford

 

      Torts; Negligence; Whether Instructional Error on Specification of Negligence Required a New Trial.  The plaintiff, John Sequenzia, who was an employee of Guerrieri Masonry,  Inc., was injured at a construction work site when the boom that was attached to his truck came into contact with power lines.  Subsequently, the plaintiff commenced this action against Guerrieri Masonry and Hodess Building Company (Hodess), the general contractor of the project.  After the plaintiff and Hodess reached a settlement, the case went to trial on a single count of common law negligence.  The court charged the jury on two specifications of negligence, namely, that Guerrieri Masonry (the defendant) failed to warn the plaintiff of the danger of using a boom under the conditions existing at the site and that the defendant directed the plaintiff to operate his truck in an area that did not provide adequate clearance or protection.  After the jury reached a verdict for the plaintiff, the defendant filed postverdict motions arguing, in part, that the court improperly charged the jury on the failure to warn specification of negligence because there was no evidence to support the charge.  The court denied the motions, determining, as to the instructional error claim, that although it had improperly charged the jury on the failure to warn specification of negligence, a new trial was not warranted because it had charged on alternative grounds on which the defendant could be held liable.  On the defendant's appeal to the Appellate Court (113 Conn. App. 448), the court found that the dispositive issue was whether the defendant was entitled to a new trial after the trial court conceded that it improperly had charged the jury on a specification of negligence for which there was no evidence.  Agreeing with the trial court that there was no evidence to support the charge, the Appellate Court concluded that the defendant was entitled to a new trial because it was possible that the jury could have based its verdict on a specification of negligence that was not supported by the evidence.  Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a petition for certification for appeal, which the Supreme Court granted, limited to the following issue: "Did the Appellate Court properly determine that instructional error required a new trial?"  The plaintiff argues that the Appellate Court improperly decided this case on the basis of the instructional error issue, which, he maintains, the defendant did not pursue on appeal.