Frivolous lawsuits the basis for new law - CBS 5 - KPHO

I-Team Investigation

Frivolous lawsuits the basis for new law

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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

For more than two years, the Channel 3 Eyewitness News I-Team has been detailing a problem in Connecticut courts with frivolous lawsuits. The cases are often brought without a lawyer and usually for free by people with low enough income to qualify for a waiver from filing fees.

But the defendants - including businesses, cities and even the state - have spent thousands defending the cases.

In one of the most talked-about stories from earlier this year, Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Parker's report on efforts to stop the torrent of lawsuits exposed the problem two years ago, and as a result, state lawmakers tackled the issue and changed the law. The changes take affect next week, and as they do, there are some updates on some of the people involved.

The first is a sad update. Cecelia Lebby, the New Britain woman who filed dozens of lawsuits over the past decade, has died. Lebby was one of the most mentioned person in public hearings in Hartford this past spring, and the I-Team tracked her down at the New Britain Courthouse earlier this year.

"I don't think they should be basing a law on me," she said.

The law passed in May. It allows judges to review the details of a lawsuit before granting a plaintiff, like Lebby, a waiver from filing fees. The idea was that paying the $350 that is required to file any new lawsuit may cut down on the number of frivolous claims. Lebby never won a case in court, but settled one with the WWE for $8,000. She said she thought there were other motivations behind the law.

"I think they're jealous because they think I'm going to come into a lot of money after I came from the hood," she told Parker. "Like, I came from rags to riches, and they think why me and not them."

Details of Lebby's death are sketchy, but it was learned that Blebby had a medical emergency at her New Britain home on Aug. 1, was rushed to a local hospital and died. An official cause of death is pending.

Lebby was 38 years old.

The reports also detailed Wyatt Kopp's efforts to bring the idea of reform to the General Assembly. He grew frustrated with fee waivers while working as a temporary employee at the courthouse in New London and testified about his plan to clamp down this spring. While he talked a lot about Lebby, he also mentioned a man by the name of Sylvester Traylor, who has filed at least nine suits in state courts over recent years. Before he knew it, Kopp had been served with a lawsuit.

"In fact, I was sued before the law even passed in the General Assembly," he said.

The lawsuit is a long one – more than 150 pages. It seeks up to $45 million from several parties, including Kopp, the state of Connecticut, the New London Day newspaper and one of the paper's reporters. The claims are varied, and range from defamation to a racist conspiracy to keep Traylor out of court.

There's even several pages of illustrations, drawings apparently commissioned by Traylor to show the various people he sued engaged in what he claims was their unlawful behavior. Despite being forced to defend himself from this suit, Kopp said he's glad he pushed for the fee waiver reform. He thinks they system will benefit now that judges can deny fee waivers to repetitive filers.

"It's better than what we had before," Kopp said. "What we had before was a system where the judges had no discretion whatsoever. They had to grant these fee waivers. They couldn't even look at the complaint to determine if, on its face, it had any merit at all."

Traylor declined to comment on this story, and said never to contact him or mention his name again, or he will sue.

The fee waiver change takes affect on Oct. 1.

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