Payne v. TK Auto Wholesalers

98 Conn. App. 533, 911 A.2d 747 (2006)

 

RULE:

Standing is the legal right to set judicial machinery in motion and implicates the appellate court's subject matter jurisdiction. A party cannot rightfully invoke the jurisdiction of the court unless he or she has, in an individual or representative capacity, some real interest in the cause of action, or a legal or equitable right, title or interest in the subject matter of the controversy. The burden rests with the party who seeks the exercise of jurisdiction in his favor clearly to allege facts demonstrating that he is a proper party to invoke judicial resolution of the dispute. The question of standing does not involve an inquiry into the merits of the case. It merely requires allegations of a colorable claim of injury to an interest that is arguably protected by a statute or common law. The appellate court's review of this question is plenary.

FACTS:

The thief, who had stolen a cousin's identity, provided the dealership with a false name and driver's license in signing both a credit application and purchase order to buy a car. The dealership allegedly accepted the thief's down payment of $ 1300, which was obtained from the thief's cousin's account. After the thief left, the dealership discovered the identity theft and contacted the police. The thief was subsequently convicted of identity theft. While incarcerated, he sued the dealership. Plaintiff thief appealed the dismissal of his action by the Superior Court against defendant auto dealership, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. He claimed that the trial court improperly concluded that he lacked standing for his claims of statutory theft, unconscionability of contract, and a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). The appellate court concluded that the thief had a legally protected possessory interest in the money he surrendered to the dealership. The judgment of the trial court was reversed and the matter was remanded for further proceedings.

ISSUE:

Did the lower court err in concluding that plaintiff lacked standing to maintain his action against the defendant?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

Because the automobile transaction never was completed nor was the $ 1300 returned, the thief claimed a direct injury due to his superior possessory interest in the money. Only the thief and the dealership were parties to the action. The defense that the money at issue properly belonged to either the thief's cousin or his bank was of no avail to the dealership. Therefore, the thief alleged a colorable claim of direct injury. Although the thief might have come to the court with unclean hands, that factor had no place in the current stage of the proceedings.

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