RENA SOBOL ACKERMAN et al. v. SOBOL FAMILY PARTNERSHIP et al.; ALFRED CASELLA et al. v. RUTH SOBOL et al.; TAMAR ACKERMAN et al. v. BANK OF AMERICA et al.; RENA SOBOL ACKERMAN AND ALFRED CASELLA, CO-TRUSTEES OF THE RENA SOBOL ACKERMAN TRUST v. WEST HARTFORD COURT OF PROBATE; TZVI RAKOSZYNSKI et al. v. BANK OF AMERICA et al., SC 18288/18289
Judicial District of Waterbury
Agency; Apparent Authority; Whether the Plaintiffs' Attorney had the Apparent Authority to Enter Into a Settlement Agreement on Behalf of All of the Plaintiffs. As a result of a family dispute, the plaintiffs brought these actions against the defendants, asserting claims for breach of fiduciary duty and a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. After extensive negotiations, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Glenn Coe, entered into a settlement agreement with the defendants' attorneys. Thereafter, the defendants filed motions to enforce the agreement, which the trial court granted over the objections of the plaintiffs. In doing so, the court determined that, notwithstanding the plaintiffs' claim to the contrary, Coe had the apparent authority to make settlement proposals and to enter into a settlement agreement on behalf of all of the plaintiffs. In coming to this conclusion, the court emphasized, among other things, that (1) one of the plaintiffs, Rena Sobol Ackerman, was actively involved in every aspect of the cases, including settlement discussions; (2) three of the plaintiffs were present when the defendant, Bank of America, accepted Coe's settlement offer; (3) Coe expressly assured the defendants' attorneys on multiple occasions that the plaintiffs had authorized him to make a settlement offer; and (4) Rena Sobol Ackerman's testimony that Coe had no authority to enter into the settlement agreement was not credible. Based upon the foregoing findings, the court concluded that Coe was held out as having the authority to negotiate an agreement on behalf of the plaintiffs and that the defendants' attorneys, acting in good faith, reasonably believed that Coe was, in fact, authorized by the plaintiffs to make the settlement offer at issue. In this appeal, the plaintiffs argue that Coe did not have the apparent authority to enter into the settlement agreement on their behalf and that the trial court, in making findings of fact regarding the issue of apparent authority, violated their right to a jury trial.