BONNIE DUART v. STATE OF CONNECTICUT, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, SC 18476
Judicial District of Hartford
Discovery; Whether the Rule of Varley v. Varley, 180 Conn. 1 (1980), Which Requires a Movant Seeking Relief From a Judgment Based on Fraud to Demonstrate That the Results at Trial Would Have Been Different, Applies to Posttrial Motions for a New Trial Based Upon Discovery Misconduct. The plaintiff commenced this action against her employer, the department of correction, alleging, among other things, that her supervisor and the warden had discriminated against her on the basis of her gender and sexual orientation. A jury found in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff moved for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence and discovery misconduct. She argued that she discovered after the trial that, despite her requests during pretrial discovery for the entire personnel files of her supervisor and the warden, the defendant failed to disclose that two other female correctional officers had filed discrimination complaints against them. She further argued that, despite her request for her entire personnel file, the defendant intentionally withheld a highly relevant anonymous note contained in her file until the last day of evidence. The court denied the plaintiff's motion and rendered a judgment for the defendant. Relying on Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers Union, Local No. 59 v. Superline Transportation Co., 953 F.2d 17 (1st Cir. 1992), it essentially determined that the plaintiff was required to show that the defendant's discovery misconduct altered the result of the trial. It then found that the plaintiff failed to make this showing because the undisclosed information was cumulative of other evidence presented and the contents of the anonymous note were known to the plaintiff during the entire pendency of the case. The plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court, arguing that the trial court relied on an improper standard in reviewing her claim of discovery misconduct. In affirming the trial court's judgment, the Appellate Court (116 Conn. App. 758), determined that the standard for analyzing claims of fraud set forth by our Supreme Court in Varley v. Varley, 180 Conn. 1 (1980), should also be applied to claims of discovery misconduct. It stated that although the trial court did not set out the Varley standard in its memorandum of decision, it effectively applied the standard by concluding that the burden was on the plaintiff to show that the evidence allegedly concealed by the defendant through discovery misconduct altered the result of the trial. It then stated that when the trial court found that the plaintiff had failed to show that the result of the trial would have been different, it, in effect, found that the plaintiff's claim failed under Varley. It thus concluded that the trial court's reliance on the Teamsters case, instead of Varley, ultimately was of no consequence. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly applied the Varley standard in affirming the trial court's judgment.