Posts tagged with "Fairfield"

State Lawmaker Involved in Car Accident Lawsuit Accused of Drunk Driving

A personal injury lawsuit filed this week accuses Connecticut State Rep. Christina Ayala of fleeing the scene of an accident caused by her own drunk driving, according to a report from the Norwich Bulletin.

Sources say the lawsuit, filed by 26-year-old Krystal Valez, claims that Ayala was under the influence of alcohol when she ran her car into a vehicle driven by Valez. The lawsuit also alleges that Ayala fled the scene of the accident.

The accident in question occurred last August, when Ayala’s 2007 Nissan Sentra allegedly struck a 2002 Honda Accord being driven by Valez.

Ayala allegedly fled the scene of the accident, but a person who witnessed the crash followed her car and eventually forced her to pull over about six blocks from the location of the collision, according to sources.

When Ayala was questioned by officers after the accident, she claimed that she tried to check on Valez following the collision, but that she decided to leave the scene because she felt “scared” due to the presence of a man who was screaming at her.

Car Accident Lawsuit

Interestingly, when police took Ayala into custody, they did not test her for alcohol, because they claimed she did not appear to be intoxicated. Nevertheless, the lawsuit filed by Valez alleges that Ayala was drunk at the time of the crash.

The plaintiff claims that she suffered back injuries and a concussion as a result of the accident, and that her medical costs amount to roughly $11,000.

Valez, however, will have to refute the testimony of Ayala’s father, Alberto Ayala, who claims that his daughter had not been drinking before the accident, according a statement given to the Connecticut Post.

Of course, Alberto Ayala has every incentive to make this claim, because not only is he the driver’s father, he is also named as a defendant in the car accident lawsuit.

Unfortunately for Christina Ayala, a native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the pending personal injury lawsuit is the least of her legal concerns.

Sources say Ayala, who is serving her first term in the state legislature, was officially charged with failing to renew her driver’s registration, failing to obey a traffic signal, and evading responsibility.

During her latest court hearing, Ayala was told by her judge that she could accept a plea bargain offered by prosecutors or stand trial for her criminal counts.

Under the plea deal, Ayala would receive a suspended sentence and have an extended period of probation. Sources say Ayala has three weeks to make her choice.

By JClark, totalinjury.com

At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury.  Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to a personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com

Woman Injured in Rail Crash Files Train Accident Lawsuit

A 65-year-old woman who was injured in a dramatic train crash last month in Connecticut has filed a negligence lawsuit against Metro-North Railroad, according to a report from ABC News.

Sources say the woman, Elizabeth Sorenson, a resident of Bridgeport, Connecticut, suffered multiple bone fractures and remains in critical condition as doctors tend to a severe brain injury.

The lawsuit was the first claim filed by a victim of the crash that occurred on May 17. According to sources, the crash injured more than 70 people.

Sorenson’s personal injury attorney told sources that he filed the lawsuit in federal court in order to gain access to witnesses that observed the accident and to allow families of the victims to become involved in the investigation.

Sources expect more lawsuits to eventually be filed in the wake of the massive train accident, which happened at 6:10 p.m. on a weekday as the train carried 300 passengers from New York’s Grand Central Station to New Haven, Connecticut.

The train reportedly derailed near a highway overpass in the town of Bridgeport, and was then struck by a train holding 400 passengers that was headed the opposite direction.

The Damage Caused by the Accident

The damage caused by the accident was “absolutely staggering,” according to Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, as he observed the scene. Sources say parts of the roof of some of the train cars had been torn off, and that some of the tracks were noticeably twisted.

Three people remain in critical condition after the accident, and the National Transportation Safety Board has launched a full investigation into the wreck.

Thus far, investigators have yet to isolate the cause of the accident, but the impact was so severe, some passengers initially thought it may have been caused by a bomb.

“We came to a sudden halt. We were jerked. There was smoke. People were screaming; people were really nervous. We were pretty shaken up. They had to smash a window to get us out,” said one passenger traveling from New York.

Another passenger told local sources that they “went flying” and reported that “one entire compartment was completely ripped open.”

Most of the 70 passengers who were injured received prompt treatment at the site of the accident, but three victims are still in critical condition, according to reports.

According to report from train officials, the tracks involved in the collision suffered “extensive infrastructure damage,” and the train involved in the accident will “need to be removed by crane” following a thorough investigation.

By JClark, totalinjury.com

At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury.  Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to a personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com

$825,000 Verdict for Injuries from Truck Accident

In a personal injury trial in the Stamford Superior Court a woman received $825,000 for injuries to her head and neck suffered in a collision with a large truck.

Case Details

The case involved a motor vehicle accident whereby, the plaintiff, Mrs. Hutter, was hit from behind by a large beer truck owned by DiChello Distributors. As a result of the collision, Mrs. Hutter sustained a number of serious injuries including injuries to her head and neck. She also sustained a mild traumatic brain injury.

During the course of a three week trial, the plaintiff presented a substantial number of witnesses to establish the significance of the impact and the extent of the injuries. The experts included an accident reconstruction expert from Maryland, a bio-mechanical expert from Virginia, a neurologist, a psychiatrist and a neuropsychologist.

In addition to the various expert witness, Mrs. Hutter also presented testimony from her friends who knew her before the time of the accident and were able to explain to the jury the significant change in Mrs. Hutter that occurred as a result of the incident.

The Verdict

After three weeks of evidence, the jury deliberated for two and one-half days and then rendered a verdict in favor of Mrs. Hutter in the amount of $825,000 including over $500,000 for compensation for her pain and suffering.

At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury.  Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to a personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com

Flood of Lawsuits Suggests New York Hospital a ‘Deathtrap’

Criticism of New York Hospital 

One of New York’s hospitals faces mounting criticism and risks losing federal and state healthcare funding because of widespread complaints of medical errors and shoddy practices.

In October, after a tragedy unfolded at Brookdale Hospital when a newborn died after he was admitted to the emergency room with a fever, an investigation by the city’s medical examiner determined that six month-old Amaan Ahmmad died because he was mistakenly given an adult dose of an antibiotic.

Since then, scrutiny of the hospital’s safety record exposed that Brookdale is defending a slew of lawsuits against it for medical malpractice. According to the New York Daily News, the once-respected Brooklyn hospital has over 100 live lawsuits against it for various acts of substandard care. A state department of health investigation uncovered multiple violations ranging from untested smoke detectors to misidentified blood samples to unsafe conditions for preventing airborne infections.

And a year ago, the hospital’s CEO David Rosen stepped down amid corruption allegations. He was later tried and convicted of trying to bribe three state politicians in return for beneficial treatment of the hospital. State politicians are now calling for changes to the leadership and management of the hospital.

Lawsuits Against the Hospital

On the legal front, some victims of the hospital’s alleged negligence will have a more difficult road to getting justice, thanks to a new state law.

The same month that baby Amaan died, the state legislature passed a tort reform statute that forces parents who sue over their newborn’s birth-related neurological injuries to put any winnings from such a lawsuit into a state fund.

Two lawsuits against Brookdale Hospital – both ending in patient deaths – hint at some of the underlying problems at the beleaguered medical center.

The First Case

In one case, an elderly patient developed bedsores that went untreated by doctors and nurses until she died shortly after.

Nora Stephens, a 92 year-old grandmother who moved to New York after a tough life of sharecropping in Virginia, entered the hospital with her “skin intact,” but developed pressure ulcers on her feet that worsened so quickly to Stage IV ulcers that she developed an infection and gangrene on both feet. Before she could have her feet amputated, she died.

“They didn’t do very basic things to take care of an elderly person not able to get out of bed,” such as turning her every two hours to make sure she did not develop ulcers, said Matthew Gammons, an attorney for Stephens’ relatives.

The Second Case

In a second case, Gammons alleges the hospital’s delayed treatment caused the death of a teenager who arrived at the emergency room with a head injury.

Eighteen year-old Corey Ray appeared “awake, oriented and agitated” when he was brought to the hospital by EMTs after being beaten up at a nearby park.

According to Gammons, the hospital breached normal practices by waiting two and a half hours to give the injured boy a CT scan, then delayed getting him a neurosurgeon for another five and a half hours. In addition to the delay, the neurosurgeon missed two other areas of bleeding in the boy’s brain and a post-operative CT scan wasn’t done until 10 hours after surgery, the lawsuit claims.

“By the time they read the scans, he had a massive hemorrhage in the back of his brain. They missed the ball. … To me, it epitomizes the lack of thoroughness of this hospital,” said Gammons.

He added that he will be looking into whether understaffing and lack of available specialists played a role in the two tragedies.

‘Radical’ New law

The number of lawsuits against a hospital may only represent a fraction of actual errors that take place.

“There may be hundreds of more legitimate cases that have not been brought and hospitals are never accountable for in terms of negligence,” said Joanne Doroshow, an attorney and consumer advocate.

It can be difficult for patients to find out about the history of a hospital, although consumers can look online to check if an individual doctor has a malpractice or disciplinary record, she added.

Recently, many hospitals say they have no money to improve patient care and have moved to cut back on patients’ legal rights, according to Doroshow. For example, for the youngest victims of medical errors in New York, a new law will make their families jump through another hoop to get future medical bills paid. The law requires that money damages awarded for future medical costs of babies who are injured during birth because of medical error go into the state fund. Doroshow criticized it as “a radical piece of legislation that severely cuts back on liability of hospitals when an injury to a newborn is birth-related.”

Besides forcing families who fight and win the long legal battle for their loved ones to then “beg” for money from the state to cover their child’s medical expenses, the new law is bad for patient safety because it takes away a financial incentive for hospitals to feel accountable, she said.

By: Sylvia Hsieh

At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury.  Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to a medical malpractice claim, hospital negligence, or personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com

$98,000 Settlement for Neck and Back Injuries after Broad-sided by Drunk Driver

A Southbury resident received a $98,000 settlement of his lawsuit stemming from an accident where his vehicle was hit by an intoxicated motorist in a “hit and run” accident.     

The automobile collision happened on a local road in Southbury, Connecticut. The drunk driver defendant was operating a Ford F350 pickup truck which belong to the owner of an excavation company.

The intoxicated motorist crossed over the center of the road into the plaintiff’s travel lane causing the motor vehicle crash.  The plaintiff was forced off the road after being broadsided by the drunk driver.

While the defendant motorist fled the scene, he was later arrested by the Connecticut State Police and charge with DUI.

As a result of the accident the plaintiff suffered neck strain, headaches, lower back strain and tinnitus.  He was treated by a chiropractic physician for her neck and lower back strain and a neurologist for his headaches and tinnitus.  The lawsuit against the intoxicated excavator was settled for $98,000 to cover medical cost and property damage.

At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury.  Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to a personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com

Family Devastated by Train Derailment Settles for $36 Million

Canadian National Railway will pay a $36 million settlement for wrongful death and personal injury claims stemming from a 2009 derailment in Rockford, Illinois. The tragedy resulted from a combination of freak weather and communications failures.

Case Details

Jose Tellez was injured in the accident and his wife, Zoila, died at the scene. Their 19-year old pregnant daughter also suffered serious injury and miscarried her baby as a result.  All three were in a car stopped at a railroad crossing when the oncoming train derailed. The train included several ethanol tank cars, one of which exploded. The Tellezs’ were all burned as they abandoned the vehicle. Mrs. Tellez never escaped the fire.

According to Robert J. Bingle, who represented the family members, the catastrophe could have been avoided with better communication by Canadian National. The train derailed at a washout near the crossing. Torrential rains that evening caused a retention pond near the rail line to overflow. The runoff from this washed all of the ballast from under a section of track.

“This left the rails literally hanging in the air” at that section, said Bingle.

Communicating Safety Issues

The county sheriff’s office alerted the Canadian National communications center in Montreal of the washout. This information never made it to the engineer of the approaching train. According to Bingle, the Canadian National employee who received the warning that evening was inexperienced and untrained. He didn’t know enough to alert the train’s engineer immediately of the danger.

Bingle pointed out a second problem in Canadian National’s safety system. He said a second office in Edmonton had received a hazardous weather alert about the downpour almost two hours before the accident. But it was bundled with one or more other alerts, and the employee at the Edmonton center didn’t read the entire message. Bingle said local Canadian National employees in illinois admitted in discovery that had the alert been forwarded to them, they would have inspected the track and found the washout in ample time to stop the train.

“It’s certainly our hope and belief that Canadian National will take steps to remedy these flaws in communicating safety issues,” Bingle said.

By Authur Buono

At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury.  Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating a personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com

In Divorce Action, Court Penalizes Husband for Deceptive Conduct During the Discovery Process

Case Background

In a decision rendered in the Superior Court for the Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport, the Court took a hard stance against a husband that dissipated assets, doctored bank statements and intentionally hid accounts during the pendency of his divorce.  The parties were married in India in 2009.  The wife claimed that after moving to the United States, she lived a life of total isolation.  The husband allegedly left for work very early each morning, and returned home late each night, while the wife had no friends and no knowledge of American practices or culture.  The wife further claimed that the husband failed to fulfill her basic needs, such as providing her with food and clothing.

The Court’s Findings

The husband denied the wife’s allegations; however, due to the husband’s conduct during the discovery process, the court found his testimony to be lacking credibility, and ultimately held him responsible for the breakdown of the marriage.  More specifically, the court found that after receiving notice of the pending divorce, the husband withdrew over $100,000.00 from a bank account, transferring the money to an unknown and undisclosed location.  The court ordered the husband to obtain bank account statements demonstrating to where the monies had been transferred, however, he never complied.

The court further found that, while self-represented, the husband provided doctored account statements on which he “whited out” numbers and inserted new ones.  Additionally, during trial, the wife’s attorney revealed that the husband maintained a bank account in New York which he never included on his financial affidavit, and which he claimed under oath did not exist.  The court also found that the husband intentionally got himself fired from a job which was paying him $150,000.00 per year and that, as a result, he was in arrears on his alimony.

Based on the husband’s deceptive conduct and failure to follow court orders, the court awarded the wife lump sum (as opposed to periodic) alimony from his share of the marital estate.  The court also awarded the wife the entirety of several bank/retirement accounts as well as $15,000 in counsel fees.

Should you have any questions about divorce proceedings, or family matters in general, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph Maya.  He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Accepting Funds from a Charitable Trust may Create a Contract that Cannot be Unilaterally Modified

Blumenthal v. Getraer, CV106007120S, 2011 WL 4953727 (Conn. Super. Ct. Oct. 4, 2011)

In a case before the Superior Court of Connecticut, the Attorney General of the State of Connecticut brought a declaratory judgment action to represent the public interest in protecting gifts intended for charitable purposes, pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 3-125.   The action posed four specific questions to the court regarding a charitable trust that was intended to honor a respected synagogue member and provide funds for capital improvements to the synagogue to which he belonged.

Case Background

In 2002, a respected member of the synagogue passed away, and was survived by his wife and son.  The following year, a charitable foundation in New York City gave the synagogue he attended a gift of $40,000 which was contingent upon the synagogue’s agreement to name its sanctuary after the deceased.  The gift and additional donations of over $100,000 were placed in a memorial fund, which was controlled by the widow and her son.

After receiving the gift, the synagogue erected a plaque over the entrance to the sanctuary declaring that it was named in honor of the deceased.  At the synagogue’s next board of directors meeting, the widow offered, on behalf of the memorial fund, to give the money in the fund to the synagogue with the restriction that it be used only for capital improvements and not ordinary expenses.  The widow and the son would act as the trustees of the fund and disburse monies for capital improvements at their absolute discretion.  The board of directors approved the arrangement.

The Dispute

A dispute later arose between the widow and her son, and the board of directors.  The widow and her son were dissatisfied because the memorial plaque was covered on several occasions so that it was not visible to people in the synagogue.  For example, during the 110th anniversary celebration of the synagogue, a sign announcing the name of the synagogue was placed over the memorial plaque.  During one Chanukah celebration, decorations were placed over the plaque and left there until July of the following year.

The board of directors was dissatisfied because the widow and her son stopped paying for capital improvements.  The board of directors that approved the arrangement with the widow and her son was dismissed and replaced with a new board.  This new board of directors voted to request the widow and her son to turn control of the fund over to the synagogue.

Determining the Rights of the Parties

In an action seeking declaratory judgment, the sole function of the trial court is to ascertain the rights of the parties under existing law.  Ginsberg v. Post, 177 Conn. 610, 616 (1979).  Four specific questions were posed to the court to determine the rights of the trustees and the rights of the synagogue.  Prior to addressing these questions, the court found that a contract had been formed between the fund and the synagogue based on the synagogue’s acceptance of monies from the fund and other actions taken by the synagogue board of directors.  Therefore, the court found that the vote by the new board of directors had no legal significance because they could not unilaterally change the terms of the previous contract with the widow and her son.

The Court’s Findings

Based on finding the existence of a contract, the court determined that the widow and her son were entitled to continue to control the fund and act as its trustees.  However, the court also found that equity required them, in their capacity as trustees, to reimburse the synagogue for the capital expenditures made in reasonable reliance on the agreement that the fund would pay for capital improvements.  The trustees had discretion to determine what constituted a capital improvement.  The fund was also required to continue to pay for capital improvements, on the condition that the memorial plaque was visible to all who would be able to see it.

The court ordered that the memorial plaque not be covered and, if it was, that would constitute a breach of contract on the part of the synagogue.  In that event, the widow and son would be free to terminate the trust and the fund, and either return the money to the donors or use it for other charitable purposes at their discretion.  Finally, the court suggested that the fund cease soliciting further donations and allow the remaining monies to be depleted to that the relationship between the parties could be terminated.

Should you have any questions relating to charitable trusts or other personal asset protection issues, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Susan Maya, at SMaya@Mayalaw.com or 203-221-3100, and Attorney Russell Sweeting, at RSweeting@Mayalaw.com or 203-221-3100, in the Maya Murphy office in Westport, Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Trustee Interpretation of Ambiguous Trust Provisions will not be Changed by a Court Without Evidence of a Clear Abuse of Trustee Discretion

Heath v. Heath, CV094044709S, 2012 WL 2477953 (Conn. Super. Ct. June 5, 2012)

In a case before the Superior Court, four trust beneficiaries filed a three-part complaint against the trustees of a trust created by their mother.  The complaint alleged breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, and other charges. The trial court ruled that the trustees had properly distributed the trust interests and entered judgment in their favor.

Case Background

In 1953, a trust indenture known as the Hembdt Trust was drafted with assets consisting of royalty interests in oil, gas and mineral rights.  During her lifetime, the settlor and beneficiary of this trust (“the decedent”) married and had ten children.  Upon her death, the terms of the trust provided that the royalty interests would pass to “his or her legal representatives, heirs at law or next of kin in accordance with the provisions of law applicable to the domicile of the deceased beneficiary.”

In 1967, the decedent died. Pursuant to her will, several testamentary trusts were created, including a testamentary trust for the benefit of her husband (“marital trust”) and a trust for her children (“children’s trust”).  The trustees and executors of the decedent’s will determined that the provision in the Hembdt Trust required the trust’s royalty interests to pass into her estate which, in accordance with her will, resulted in these interests being distributed in a 54/46 ratio between the marital trust and the children’s trust.

Legal Representatives of a Trust

The beneficiaries of the children’s trust argued that the entirety of the royalty interest should have been distributed to them as the decedent’s heirs at law because the term “legal representatives” in the Hembdt Trust provision, used under the circumstances provided, could only be interpreted to mean the children of the decedent.  The decedent’s husband, in his capacity as a fiduciary of the trusts, argued that the beneficiaries’ interpretation was inconsistent with the language of the trust instrument and the law.

He argued that the term “legal representatives” was used in conjunction with “heirs at law” and “next of kin;” therefore, the clear intent of the Hembdt Trust provision was that upon the death of the individual beneficiary, his or her interest would pass to: (1) the beneficiary’s legal representatives, which would be the beneficiary’s executors, if the person died testate, to be administered according to the beneficiary’s will, or the beneficiary’s administrators, if the person died intestate and a probate estate was opened; (2) the beneficiary’ heirs at law if the person died intestate and no probate estate was opened; and (3) the beneficiary’s next of kin if there were no heirs at law.

The decedent’s husband further argued that if all three conditions existed, then the distributions would have to be in accordance with Connecticut law, which requires that, when a decedent leaves both a spouse and children, they both inherit.  Finally, the decedent’s husband argued that Connecticut law requires that if a decedent leaves a will, a distribution is made according to the will.   Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-431.  The remaining trustees adopted the arguments of the decedent’s husband.

The Language of a Trust Instrument

According to Connecticut case law, a court’s role in the construction of a trust instrument is to determine the meaning of what the grantor stated in the trust instrument and not to speculate upon what the grantor intended to state in the instrument. Connecticut Bank & Trust Co. v. Lyman, 148 Conn. 273, 278-79, 170 A.2d 130 (1961).  Language in the trust instrument is to be accorded its common, natural and ordinary meaning and usage.  WE 470 Murdock, LLC v. Cosmos Real Estate, LLC, 109 Conn.App. 605, 609, 952 A.2d 106, cert. denied, 289 Conn. 938, 958 A.2d 1248 (2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Furthermore, no language will be construed as to remove a trustee from equitable control; courts may intervene only to protect and preserve the trust in circumstances where the trustees have abused their discretion.  Gimbel v. Bernard F. & Alva B. Gimbel Foundation, Inc., 166 Conn. 21, 34, 347 A.2d 81 (1974)

The Court’s Decision

Connecticut case law has established that the phrase “legal representatives” in a testamentary instrument is an ambiguous or equivocal term. Smith v. Groton, 147 Conn. 272, 274–75, 160 A.2d 262 (1960).   In interpreting the trust provisions, the court determined that the language did not permit the decedent’s beneficial interest to pass to each of the three categories (“legal representatives, heirs at law and next of kin”) or to pass to different recipients depending on an exercise of discretion (“legal representatives, or heirs at law, or next of kin”).

For that reason, the court found that the terms “legal representatives,” “heirs at law,” and “next of kin” did not conflict and that the provision required that the decedent’s beneficial interest pass to the recipients in the order clearly listed the trust instrument.  Therefore, the trustees did not abuse their discretion in determining that the royalty interests passed to the executors, as the decedent’s legal representatives, to be distributed to the marital trust and children’s trust in accordance with the decedent’s will.

Because the trial court did not find that the trustees of the decedent’s trusts abused their discretion, the court refused to upset their determination of how the decedent’s interests should be distributed.

Should you have any questions relating to wills, trusts, estates and other personal asset protection issues, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Susan Maya, at SMaya@Mayalaw.com or 203-221-3100, and Attorney Russell Sweeting, at RSweeting@Mayalaw.com or 203-221-3100, in the Maya Murphy office in Westport, Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Assets Protected From Creditors in Connecticut

In today’s economy more and more people find themselves having a hard time paying the bills and avoiding late payments.  Still others have a problem with creditors chasing them for unpaid debts.  Now more than ever it is important for you to know what assets are protected from creditors and what are not.

Connecticut law provides some protection from creditors in a situation where your income or assets are subject to a court judgment or lien.  You can protect yourself in a variety of ways by planning ahead and consulting with a professional financial planner and an attorney.   Taking out liability insurance or setting up a corporate entity or trust for your property are examples of how you can shield your assets from future creditors.  However, there are some individual assets that are automatically protected from creditors.  Here is brief summary of the law in Connecticut:

A.            Wages

Once a creditor obtains a judgment against you, it can apply for an execution against your wages.  See Connecticut General Statutes, Section 52-361a.  Connecticut law does provide for some protection in this situation.   No more than twenty-five percent of an individual’s weekly disposable earnings may be subject to a wage execution.  The portion of disposable earnings subject to the wage execution is withheld and applied to the amount of the judgment.    In some cases, the maximum amount that can be withheld may be less depending upon the ratio between the individual’s disposable earnings and the hourly minimum wage in effect at the time of the execution.

B.             Retirement Plans

Generally, retirement plans are exempt from claims by creditors.  Both IRAs and 401ks are protected assets pursuant to Connecticut General Statues, Section 52-321a.

C.             Personal Property

Connecticut law provides a list of exempt personal property that creditors cannot claim an interest in pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes, Section 52-352b.  The list of property includes basics necessities such as apparel, bedding, foodstuffs, household furniture and appliances.  Items necessary for a person’s occupation or profession such as tools, books, instruments, farm animals and livestock feed are also considered exempt property.  Wedding and engagement rings are not subject to creditor claims as well.

D.             Insurance and Government Assistance Payments

Some insurance and government assistance payments are exempt from creditors under Connecticut General Statutes, Section 52-352b.   Health and disability insurance payments are exempt as are Workers’ compensation, Social Security, veterans and unemployment benefits.  In addition, under Connecticut General Statutes, Section 38a-453, creditors of an insured cannot seek payment from a life insurance policy beneficiary under most circumstances.

E.             Child Support and Alimony Payments

Any court approved child support payments received by a debtor are exempt and protected from creditors.  Alimony payments, to the extent that wages are exempt from creditor claims, are also protected.  See Connecticut General Statutes, Sections 52-352b & 52-361a.

F.             Real Estate

Your homestead or personal residence is exempt from creditor claims up to the value of seventy-five thousand dollars.  If a creditor has a money judgment arising out of hospital services, then the value of the exemption increases to one hundred twenty-five thousand dollars.  The exemption is calculated based upon the fair market value of the equity in the property taking into account any statutory or consensual liens on the property.  See Connecticut General Statutes, Section 52-352b.

There is no such exemption in place for commercial real estate or rental properties.

G.             Motor Vehicles

Only one motor vehicle is exempt from creditor claims up to the value of one thousand five hundred dollars.  The exemption is calculated by estimating the fair market value of the motor vehicle and taking into account any relevant liens or security interests.  See Connecticut General Statutes, Section 52-352b.

H.              Bank Accounts

         A creditor can enforce a judgment by way of a bank execution.  However, the same exemptions apply to bank accounts as they do to government assistance, insurance, alimony and child support payments as outlined above.  Therefore, you have the opportunity to challenge a bank execution based on these exemptions and prevent a creditor from taking money out of your account.   In addition, you can claim a general exemption not to exceed one thousand dollars.

In conclusion, Connecticut law prevents creditors from seizing all of your income, property, possessions and savings pursuant to a judgment or lien.  However, the law does not prevent a debt collector from jeopardizing your livelihood and financial wellbeing.  You best bet is to limit individual liability and plan ahead to avoid a creditor claim in the first place.  Consulting with a professional financial planner and an attorney is recommended.