CATHERINE FARRELL et al. v. TWENTY-FIRST
CENTURY INSURANCE COMPANY, SC 18544
Judicial District of Danbury
Arbitration; Action to Compel Arbitration; Whether an Agreement to Arbitrate Existed. During the pretrial stage of an action by the plaintiffs in connection with a car accident involving the defendant's insured, the parties agreed, in principle, to arbitrate the plaintiffs' claims. Three years later, the plaintiffs brought this action to compel arbitration. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that no written agreement to arbitrate existed between the parties, as required under General Statutes § 52-408. The plaintiffs, in opposing the motion, submitted letters that had been exchanged by the attorneys on both sides, which, they claimed, cumulatively constituted an enforceable agreement to arbitrate. Concluding that there was no genuine issue of material fact and no written agreement to arbitrate, the trial court granted the motion for summary judgment. On appeal to the Appellate Court (118 Conn. App. 757), the plaintiffs claimed that the trial court's judgment was improper because the existence of an arbitration agreement is a question of fact. The Appellate Court determined that the plaintiffs failed to provide concrete evidence that raised a genuine issue as to the existence of a written contract to arbitrate. The court found that the parties' correspondence, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, indicated that the parties had an informal agreement to arbitrate but that they never agreed on any of the terms for arbitration. Moreover, it determined that the defendant never manifested an intent to be bound by the parties' informal plan to arbitrate. It also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the trial court could compel unrestricted arbitration, finding that the parties had expressed, in writing, a desire to set high and low award limits. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's judgment. The Supreme Court granted certification for the plaintiffs to appeal, limited to the following issue: "Whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment based on its determination that there was no agreement to arbitrate."