JONATHAN M. KELLER et al. v. ROZ-LYNN BECKENSTEIN, EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF ROBERT J. BECKENSTEIN, SC 18689

Judicial District of Hartford

 

Ripeness; Whether Appellate Court Properly Concluded that Trial Court Lacked Subject Matter Jurisdiction Over Vexatious Litigation Action Based on Lack of Ripeness, yet Nonetheless Vacated Trial Court's Ruling Dismissing the Action. A tort action was brought by entities associated with Roz-Lynn Beckenstein, the executrix of the estate of Robert J. Beckenstein (the Beckenstein parties), against Jonathan M. Keller and a group of business entities (the Keller group). The trial court resolved that action in favor of the Keller group, and the Beckenstein parties appealed. While that appeal was pending, the Keller group commenced this vexatious litigation action against the executrix stemming from the Beckenstein action. The trial court granted the executrix's motion to dismiss the vexatious litigation action on the ground that it was not ripe for review since the Beckenstein appeal was still pending. The Keller group appealed from that ruling, and the Appellate Court (122 Conn. App. 438) concluded that the trial court properly dismissed their action. It stated that at the time the Keller group brought the vexatious litigation action, the Beckenstein appeal had yet to terminate in the Keller group's favor, which was a necessary element of the vexatious litigation claim. It also disagreed with the Keller group's argument that because the executrix had rejected a claim against the estate premised on the allegedly vexatious nature of the Beckenstein action, this action was authorized under General Statutes 45a-363, which sets a 120 day limit for bringing an action upon a claim rejected by an estate. It held that 45a-363 only sets a procedural limit on the time in which a party may pursue a cause of action stemming from a claim that was rejected by an estate and does not create a cause of action. Nevertheless, the Appellate Court declined to affirm the trial court's judgment of dismissal. It reasoned that during the pendency of the Keller group's appeal, the Beckenstein appeal was resolved in favor of the Keller group and that it was the present situation that governed its review of the ripeness claim, rather than the situation at the time the vexatious litigation action was before the trial court. It then stated that since the Beckenstein appeal had been resolved, there was now a question as to whether the vexatious litigation action was still unripe for adjudication. It therefore vacated the trial court's judgment and remanded the matter with direction to reconsider the executrix's motion to dismiss. The Keller group has appealed, and the executrix has cross appealed. The Supreme Court will now decide whether the Appellate Court correctly (1) concluded that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the vexatious litigation action and (2) vacated the trial court's judgment of dismissal.