Monday, January 6, 2014

Zauner v. Brewer case brief

Zauner v. Brewer case brief summary
596 A.2d 388 (1991)

Plaintiff, the devisee of the testatrix' son, challenged the judgment of the Superior Court in the judicial district of Litchfield (Connecticut), which granted the motion for summary judgment filed by defendant, the wife of the testatrix' physician, in the devisee's action for a determination that the physician's wife surrendered or forfeited her life estate in certain real property allegedly owned by the devisee in fee simple.

The testatrix's will disposed of a 33-acre parcel of property, which consisted of a house and recently landscaped grounds, as well as a man-made pond complete with a boat house and dock for recreational purposes. The land was devised to the physician's wife for her life, and if she "surrendered" the premises, the remainder interest went to the testatrix' son. The physician's wife lived in the house for approximately 20 years and then she leased the property to a third party. The devisee alleged that the leasing by the physician's wife constituted a "surrender" of the property and that by permitting the buildings and grounds of the property to become out of repair, the physician's wife had committed "waste" within the meaning of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-563, that had greatly diminished the value of the property.


  • The court held that the word "surrender" was ambiguous and was not discernible from the language of the will alone. 
  • The court held that genuine issues of material fact existed as to the intended meaning of the word "surrender" and as to whether the physician's wife committed waste actionable under § 52-563.
The court reversed the judgment in favor of the physician's wife and remanded the action for further proceedings.

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