Archive for October, 2007

Connecticut Judgment Exemptions Law

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Connecticut law exempts certain property from people who have secured a court judgment (CGS § 52-352b). The exemptions includes such things as (1) necessary clothes, bedding, food, household furniture, and appliances; (2) one motor vehicle; (3) a primary residence; (4) health and disability payments, workers’ compensation, social security, veterans’ and unemployment benefits, alimony and support payments and court-approved child support payments, and (5) health aids necessary to work or maintain health.

The only exemptions that have a monetary threshold are the homestead exemption that applies to the primary residence ($ 75,000), motor vehicle exemption ($ 1,500), personal property up to a value of $ 1,000, and interest in an unmatured life insurance policy up to $ 4,000.

Connecticut’s exemption statute dates back to the 1700’s. It was modernized in 1977. The motor vehicle exemption was established in 1983 and has not been adjusted. The homestead exemption was added in 1993. It established the amount of the exemption as $ 75,000 and defined a homestead as a primary residence. In 2003, the homestead

exemption was increased to $ 125,000 for judgments relating to a hospital bill. The provisions for an interest in personal property up to $ 1,000 and the interest in a life insurance contract up to $ 4,000 were also adopted in 1993.

We used the conversion factor of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Northeast Urban Area, provided by the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to adjust the monetary exemptions for inflation. See http: //stats. bls. gov. Applying this index, the homestead exemption would increase from $ 75,000 to $ 99,000 and the motor vehicle exemption would increase from $ 1,500 to $ 3,000.

All New England states have homestead and motor vehicle exemptions. The homestead exemptions range from a standard exemption of $ 35,000 in Maine to $ 500,000 in Massachusetts. Motor vehicle exemptions range from $ 700 in Massachusetts to $ 10,000 for one or more cars in Rhode Island.

EXEMPT PROPERTY

The current Connecticut exemptions from a money judgment established by CGS § 52-352b are:

1. one motor vehicle worth up to $ 1,500 (fair market value minus all liens and security interests on it);

2. necessary apparel, bedding, foodstuffs, household furniture, and appliances;

3. tools, books, instruments, farm animals, and livestock feed that the individual needs for his occupation, profession, or farming operation;

4. a burial plot for the individual and his immediate family;

5. welfare payments and wages the welfare recipient earns under an incentive earnings or similar program;

6. health and disability insurance payments;

7. health aids the individual needs to work or sustain health;

8. workers’ compensation, social security, veterans’ and unemployment benefits;

9. alimony and support, other than child support, but only to the extent that wages are exempt from execution;

10. court-approved child support payments;

11. arms, military equipment, uniforms, and musical instruments owned by someone in the United States armed forces or militia;

12. wedding and engagement rings;

13. one residential utility deposit and one residential security deposit;

14. an individual’s assets or interests in a retirement, Keogh, Individual Retirement Account, or similar plan or arrangement;

15. an award under a crime reparations act;

16. benefits allowed by any association of persons in this state for the support of its members who are incapacitated by sickness or infirmity;

17. money due to the individual from an insurance company on any insurance policy issued on exempt property, to the same extent that the property was exempt;

18. an interest in any property that does not exceed $ 1,000 in value;

19. an interest of up to $ 4,000 in any accrued dividend or interest under, or loan value of, any unmatured life insurance contract the individual owns under which he, or someone whose dependent he is, is insured; and

20. irrevocable transfers of money to an account held by a bona fide licensed nonprofit debt adjuster for the benefit of the individual’s creditors.

EXEMPT PROPERTY WITH A MONETARY VALUE ATTACHED

Homestead Exemption

The homestead exemption permits the debtor to exclude his home from execution of a judgment up to the value of $ 75,000. The value of the home must be determined as the fair market value less the amount of any statutory or consensual lien which encumbers it (CGS § 52-352b(t)). The homestead exemption was enacted in 1993 and was amended and increased to $ 125,000 for debt arising out of hospital services in 2003. The homestead exemption is based upon the equity value of a primary residence.

If a husband and wife own a house jointly, then the homestead is subject to a $ 150,000 exemption since each of them has an exemption valued at $ 75,000 (Bolduc v. Riches, 47 Conn. Sup. 590, (2003)). This court opinion was written before the amendment increasing the exemption to $ 125,000 for medical bills was enacted, but similar reasoning might create a homestead exemption of $ 250,000 for attachments for medical bills. A creditor is entitled to place a lien on the real property, but is barred from executing the lien if the equity threshold has not been reached (See Bolduc at p. 592).

No Contract Of Employment Unless Definite Term

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

The Connecticut Appellate Court today unofficially released a Per Curium decision that affirms the general principle that a contract for an indefinite term is a contract for at-will employment, even in the apparent absence of express terms. In Ward v. Distinctive Directories, Inc., (officially released on October 23, 2007), the Appellate Court affirmed this general principle. Under most circumstances in order for an employee to successfully claim that he had an enforceable contract of employment, the contract must include a definite term of time as to when the contract will expire – i.e. employment term of 1 year, 5 years, etc. Without this, under most circumstances, the employee will be an at-will employee.

Courts No Longer Deciding If Comment Was Stray

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

Connecticut courts are now refusing to label a discriminatory statement or comment as stray or not.  Instead, and correctly so, Connecticut courts are applying a four factor test in weighing the probative value of the comments.  The four factors are:

  1. who made the remark, i.e., a decisionmaker, a supervisor, or a low-level co-worker;
  2. when the remark was made in relation to the employment decision at issue;
  3. the content of the remark, i.e., whether a reasonable juror could view the remark as discriminatory; and
  4. the context in which the remark was made, i.e., whether it was related to the decisionmaking process.

In applying the test, the Court need not determine whether the remarks by employer’s agents are stray. Instead, the Court will decide whether the remarks are sufficiently probative of unlawful discrimination such that the jury could reasonably find that the Plaintiff was terminated because of unlawful discrimination.