GRECO et al. v. UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORP. et al., SC 17231
Judicial District of Waterbury
Wrongful Death; Statute of Limitations; CERCLA; Whether Timeliness of Wrongful Death Claims Arising From Alleged Exposure to Carcinogens in Workplace is Governed by CERCLA; Whether Trial Court Properly Struck Complaint as Untimely under § 52-555. The plaintiffs represent sixty-one deceased former employees of Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corporation (UTC). The plaintiffs allege that their decedents were exposed to toxins and carcinogens while they worked for UTC. They filed claims for wrongful death, loss of consortium and punitive damages. UTC moved to strike the claims on the ground that they were barred by the limitation periods in General Statutes § 52-555, which provides that a wrongful death action must be brought within two years of the date of death and that no such action shall be brought more that five years from the date of the conduct that gave rise thereto. In opposition, the plaintiffs argued that their claims were timely in that they were governed by either the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) or General Statutes § 52-577c (b) and they were brought within the times provided therein. Both CERCLA and § 52-577c (b) provide that an action for damages caused by exposure to a hazardous substance must be brought within two years from the date the plaintiff discovered or should have discovered that he or she was injured. The trial court determined that neither CERCLA nor § 52-577c applied to the plaintiffs’ claims. It found that CERCLA did not apply to their allegations that the decedents were exposed to hazardous substances in the workplace because the act does not apply to such exposures if the employees could otherwise assert claims against their employer, and the plaintiffs here specifically alleged that they had filed workers’ compensation claims. In addition, it ruled that CERCLA did not apply to the plaintiffs’ claims that the decedents were exposed to hazardous substances outside the workplace by the release of toxins from their clothing into their cars, homes and bodies, because the act applies only to releases “to the environment” and not to releases inside a building or consumer vessels, such as cars. The court concluded that § 52-577c (b) did not apply because the plaintiffs did not refer to that statute in their complaint and specifically brought their claims under § 52-555. Accordingly, the court concluded that the action was governed by § 52-555 and that it was time barred. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court's decision was correct.