Connecticut General Contractor Granted Summary Judgment in Asbestos Products Liability Lawsuit


800px-Asbestos_Shingles.jpgA Connecticut Superior Court judge granted summary judgment to a general contractor in two asbestos lawsuits in late November, ruling that it is not a “manufacturer” or “seller” within the meaning of the Connecticut Products Liability Act (CPLA). The court dismissed causes of action for violations of the CPLA and wrongful death in both Mazzaia v. A.O. Smith Corp., et al, No. CV-11-5029478 (Conn. Super. Ct., Nov. 29, 2012); and Selvidio v. Alfa Laval, Inc., et al, No. CV-11-6017088 (Conn. Super. Ct., Nov. 26, 2012). These cases may represent an important limitation on products liability claims in Connecticut.

Both cases involved decedents who allegedly developed mesothelioma, a form of cancer that primarily affects the lungs, due to asbestos exposure while working at a Pfizer Corp. plant in Groton, Connecticut. Donald Mazzaia’s executor alleged that he suffered asbestos exposure while serving in the U.S. Navy between 1959 and 1963 and while working for General Dynamics and Pfizer between 1963 and 1979. Joseph Selvidio’s executor alleged that he was exposed to asbestos-containing products while working at the Pfizer plant from 1973 to 1979. Both lawsuits alleged violations of the CPLA and liability under the Connecticut wrongful death statute.

The defendant that filed the motions for summary judgment, Skansa USA Building, Inc., is the successor-in-interest to W.J. Barney Corp. Barney had a contract with Pfizer to build its Groton facility, which was in effect from 1946 to 1977. In 1977, the two companies signed a new contract for “maintenance and general services” at the plant. Mazzaia at 4. According to affidavits produced by Skansa, the company did not sell or distribute materials unless directed to sell surplus products by Pfizer. Its responsibilities were almost entirely related to construction and maintenance, and while it purchased materials as part of providing services to Pfizer, Pfizer had the option of procuring materials independently of Barney.