Mecca v. Mecca, 203 Conn. App. 541 (2021) (motion to open for fraud; probate interest)
Officially released March 30, 2021
In Short: Wife’s failure to list a potential inheritance on her financial affidavit did not constitute fraud where she provided documentation of the potential inheritance prior to filing for divorce and where the separation agreement expressly waived Husband’s interest in that potential inheritance.
The parties were marred in 2000. In 2015, Wife’s uncle died. Wife forwarded an email to Husband, which he received but did not read, which contained details of a complaint filed in Canada by Wife and others regarding her Uncle’s estate, which listed the gross value of the estate at in excess of C$6m. In 2017 Wife filed for divorce. In 2018, the parties were divorced pursuant to separation agreement, in which Husband expressly waived any right to any proceeds regarding the uncle’s estate.
More than four months post-judgment, Husband filed a motion to open the Judgment alleging that it was obtained as a result of Wife’s fraud. Specifically, Husband alleged that Wife had failed to disclose the inheritance on her financial affidavit throughout the action and made misrepresentations at her deposition.
A hearing was held on the motion to open and the trial court found that Wife had disclosed what she knew, Husband chose not to read the documents and waived his claim in the separation agreement, and therefore there was not fraud.
On appeal, Husband claimed that the court abused its discretion by (1) applying an incorrect legal standard with respect to his motion to open, assigning him a duty of diligence and failing to consider the proper elements of fraud, and (2) failing to consider a pattern of fraudulent conduct on the part of the plaintiff.
Husband claimed that Wife was required to make an investigation into her assets and disclose the results clearly on her financial affidavit, and that the court incorrectly placed a duty of diligence on him. His waiver, therefore, was not an intentional relinquishment of a known right. The Appellate Court noted the standard of review from denial of a motion to open judgment, which is whether the trial court acted unreasonably and in clear abuse of discretion. The Appellate Court found that the trial court did not place a duty of diligence on Husband, it simply acknowledged that a party cannot choose to ignore documents that were appropriately disclosed.  The fact that the inheritance was expressly waived (and therefore noted) in the agreement weighed against Husband’s claim. Further, the potential asset was subject to a degree of uncertainty as to availability and value. The Appellate Court further stated “By focusing on whether the plaintiff disclosed and characterized the asset in the documents provided to the defendant, it is clear that the court applied the appropriate legal standard in addressing the defendant’s claim of fraud.”
As to Husband’s claim that the Court abused its discretion by failing to consider a pattern of fraudulent conduct, Wife countered that Husband failed to establish any pattern of fraud. The Appellate Court made short work of Husband’s claim, agreeing with Wife that the record supports the trial court’s conclusion that there was no fraud, let alone a pattern thereof.
The Judgment was affirmed.
 Husband did not brief his claim related to exclusion of a deposition transcript.
 Interestingly (to me) it appears from the Appellate Court’s timeline that Wife’s disclosures (other than the express waiver in the separation agreement) took place prior to Wife filing for divorce.