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Tort Law Supreme Court Opinion

by Penn, Michele


SC20023 - Northrup v. Witkowski ("This certified appeal requires us to consider the continued vitality of this court's decision in Spitzer v. Waterbury, 113 Conn. 84, 88, 154 A. 157 (1931), which held that "[t]he work of constructing drains and sewers, as well as that of keeping them in repair, is ministerial, and the municipality is responsible for negligence in its performance." The plaintiffs, Helen M. Northrup, George W. Northrup, and Timothy Northrup, brought this action against the defendants, the borough of Naugatuck (town) and several town officials, claiming, inter alia, that the defendants' negligence in maintaining and repairing the town's storm drains and drainage pipes had caused the repeated flooding of the plaintiffs' residence. The plaintiffs now appeal, upon our granting of their petition for certification, from the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's granting of the defendant's motion for summary judgment on the ground that the negligence claims were barred because, under more recent cases refining and clarifying Spitzer, the maintenance of storm drains and drainage systems is a discretionary function subject to governmental immunity, rather than a ministerial function, the negligent performance of which can subject a municipality to liability. Northrup v. Witkowski, 175 Conn. App. 223, 250, 167 A.3d 443 (2017). We disagree with the plaintiffs' claim that the Appellate Court improperly failed to follow Spitzer because we conclude that decision must be overruled in light of modern case law governing the distinction between ministerial and discretionary duties. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.")