FAIRCHILD HEIGHTS RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION, INC. v. FAIRCHILD HEIGHTS, INC., SC 18917
Judicial District of Waterbury
Mobile Homes; Subject Matter Jurisdiction; Whether Association Complaining of Condition of Mobile Home Park Failed to Exhaust its Administrative Remedies; Whether Association had Standing to Bring CUTPA Claim on Behalf of its Members. The plaintiff is an association of owners of mobile homes located in the defendant's mobile home park. The plaintiff brought this action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and alleging that the defendant is liable for negligence based on violations of General Statutes § 21-64 et seq., which regulate the operation of mobile home parks, and the Shelton city ordinances. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). The trial court rendered a judgment for the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed. The Appellate Court (131 Conn. App. 567) found that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's claims due to its failure to exhaust its administrative remedies and its failure to establish its standing to sue. The Appellate Court noted that the department of consumer protection is charged with licensing and monitoring complaints with regard to mobile home parks and that the statutes regulating mobile home parks provide that a resident who has a complaint may petition the department for a declaratory ruling and then appeal to the Superior Court from any action of the department. The court found that, because the plaintiff failed to follow the statutory scheme and exhaust its administrative remedies by seeking a declaratory ruling from the department before seeking relief in the courts, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over its claims for declaratory relief. The Appellate Court also found that the plaintiff did not have standing to bring its claims for injunctive relief because it failed to allege facts in its complaint showing that it would suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction and because the plaintiff clearly did not lack an adequate remedy at law. Finally, the Appellate Court found that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring its CUTPA claim. It explained that in order for an association to establish standing to bring a claim on behalf of its members, it must show, among other things, that it is unnecessary for the individual members to participate in the lawsuit. The Appellate Court found that the plaintiff could not make that showing because the individual residents of the mobile homes would have to testify as to their first hand knowledge of the alleged violations and the resulting damage. The Appellate Court, accordingly, reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case to the trial court with direction to dismiss the action. In this certified appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly reversed and remanded with direction to dismiss based on its determinations that the plaintiff failed to exhaust its administrative remedies and lacked associational standing.