COPPOLA CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC. v. HOFFMAN ENTERPRISES LIMITED PARTNERSHIP et al., SC 18955
Judicial District of Hartford
Negligent Misrepresentation; Whether Plaintiff Sufficiently Alleged a Cause of Action for Negligent Misrepresentation. The plaintiff agreed to perform construction work on certain commercial property that is owned by Hoffman Enterprises Limited Partnership (Hoffman Enterprises). After disputes arose regarding the project, the plaintiff initiated this action, alleging, among other things, that an officer of Hoffman Enterprises, Jeffrey Hoffman, had engaged in negligent misrepresentation in that he falsely told the plaintiff that Signature Construction Services, LLC (Signature), was the agent of Hoffman Enterprises. The plaintiff further alleged that it relied on this misrepresentation to its detriment in that it mistakenly believed that Hoffman Enterprises would pay for certain extra work that had been requested by Signature. Jeffrey Hoffman filed a motion to strike the plaintiff's negligent misrepresentation claim, which the trial court granted. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that it had sufficiently alleged a cause of action for negligent misrepresentation. The Appellate Court (134 Conn. App. 203) agreed, finding that the plaintiff properly alleged that Jeffrey Hoffman knowingly made a false representation of fact and that the plaintiff reasonably relied upon the misrepresentation to its detriment. The court explained that, in the operative complaint, the plaintiff alleged that Jeffrey Hoffman, as an officer of Hoffman Enterprises, knowingly misrepresented that Signature had the authority to act on behalf of Hoffman Enterprises and that it relied upon the misrepresentation to its detriment when, at Signature's request, it performed extra work on the project for which Hoffman Enterprises did not pay. The court also rejected Jeffrey Hoffman's contention that, because the misrepresentation claim was based upon his alleged statement that Signature was the agent of Hoffman Enterprises, the statement merely provided a basis to bind Hoffman Enterprises to the agreement regarding the extra work under a theory of agency based upon apparent authority. This argument, the court opined, ignored the plaintiff's right to plead alternative causes of action based on the same facts. The court added that, regardless of whether the plaintiff's allegations provided a factual basis for an apparent authority claim, the plaintiff alleged a sufficient claim of negligent misrepresentation. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court's decision was proper.