Conn. company won't receive $1.2 million settlement

John O'Brien Oct. 15, 2007, 2:00pm

HARTFORD, Conn. - The State of Connecticut reached a settlement with a Norwich construction company for $1.2 million but does not have to pay it, the state's Supreme Court unanimously decided Monday.

The decision overturns a lower court ruling that required the State to pay the amount, reached to settle a claim for extra costs C.R. Klewin Northeast incurred while providing work at Manchester Community College.

C.R. Klewin sought to enforce Department of Public Works Commissioner James Fleming and Comptroller Nancy Wyman to process the payment, which was recommended by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and approved by Gov. Jodi Rell in 2005.

Since then, Fleming and Wyman have not made the payment. C.R. Klewin says Rell's approval forced them to.

"We therefore conclude that the Legislature did not intend for the governor's authorization under (state law) to create a mandatory duty in a department official to pay a settlement of a disputed claim," Justice Joette Katz wrote in the opinion.

"Accordingly, Fleming and Wyman did not act in excess of their statutory authority when they failed to effect the payment to the plaintiff pursuant to the governor's authorization, and the plaintiff's claim does not fall within the exception to sovereign immunity."

The trial court had ruled that by giving her signature, Rell -- as the "supreme executive power" in the state -- had created a duty for Fleming and Wyman to go forward with payment.

In its appeal, the State argued C.R. Klewin had other remedies available -- like an application to the claims commissioner -- instead of suing governmental agencies.

The Supreme Court agreed that Fleming and Wyman had no duty and were still immune from this type of litigation.

"We previously have held that a litigant that seeks to overcome the presumption of sovereign immunity must show that "the Legislature, either expressly or by force of a necessary implication, statutorily waived the state's sovereign immunity" or "in an action for declaratory or injunctive relief, the state officer or officers against whom such relief is sought acted in excess of statutory authority, or pursuant to an unconstitutional statute," Katz wrote.

And that didn't happen, according to the Court.

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