Here's a recent piece I wrote for the Connecticut Law Tribune about a bizarre scenario: a litigant suing for alleged personal injury has been charged with perjury because he allegedly falsely claimed his mother had died in order to excuse his absence from court. Sometimes, you can't make the world of law up.
An Arizona man sued Dollar Tree Stores, alleging that he fell due to a hole in the floor of one of the chain's stores in Hartford County.
But Kenneth Rowe has fallen into an even bigger hole after he apparently falsely claimed that his mother recently died and that was why he failed to show up in court for his civil lawsuit.
That so irked Connecticut Superior Court Judge Robert E. Young that he ordered that Rowe's testimony be referred to the state's attorney for the New Britain Judicial District to investigate if Rowe perjured himself.
In late August, an arrest warrant was issued for Rowe's arrest on one count of perjury, according to a report State's Attorney Brian Preleski sent to the judge.
Young has yet to decide if he will sanction Rowe.
Rowe started his lawsuit in February 2014, alleging that he fell Dec. 8, 2013, due to a hole in the rear of the Dollar Tree store in Rocky Hill. He claimed he had a lumbar-spinal injury and hurt his left ankle.
According to a court transcript, Rowe's first lawyer, Paul J. Garlasco of the Law Offices of Paul J. Garlasco, had trouble keeping in touch with his client, and he asked Dollar Tree to make a settlement offer of $5,000 "in order to entice [Rowe] back into communication."
When Garlasco relayed the settlement offer to Rowe late last year, Rowe allegedly hung up on his attorney. Shortly before the case was supposed to go to trial, Garlasco moved to withdraw from the case.
Rowe failed to show up at the trial management conference on Dec. 8, 2015. Then the judge, Garlasco and Nicole J. Tung, Dollar Tree's lawyer from Halloran & Sage, agreed to a judgment of nonsuit being entered against Rowe.
Rowe engaged John A. Locus, a Rocky Hill attorney, who filed a motion to reopen the judgment of nonsuit. In the motion, Locus wrote that his client was caring for his mother in the fall of 2015 after she experienced four strokes and dementia. Rowe further claimed he transferred his mother from Springfield, Illinois, to an assisted living facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, and continued to care for her until her death on Feb. 5, 2016.
"It was both reasonable and compassionate for the plaintiff to tend to his mother in her final months as her health deteriorated," Locus wrote. "To preclude the plaintiff from reopening his case would deny him his rightful day in court."
The judge held a hearing on whether to overturn the nonsuit in May. According to a court transcript, Rowe testified he had told Garlasco he couldn't make the conference because he was caring for his ailing mother.
According to the court, however, Garlasco only said that all communications had broken down with his client and he needed to withdraw from the case.
While cross-examining Rowe, Tung presented an affidavit of a defense investigator who contacted Rowe's mother, Theodora Rowe, three months after she had allegedly died. According to the law firm, it received an anonymous tip that Rowe's mother was alive and well in Chicago and a phone call proved it to be true.
Young immediately asked for a recess at the spring hearing. After the recess, Locus said that Rowe consented to withdraw the motion to reopen his case.
"We have a situation here where either Theodora Rowe is dead or alive," Young said. "She can't be both. And if, in fact, Theodora Rowe is alive, and Mr. Rowe—Ken Rowe is here today sitting next to me under oath and testifying to the death of his mother, that would be a very serious fraud upon the court."
Rowe could not be reached for comment. Locus did not respond to a request for comment, while Tung declined comment.