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King v. Volvo Excavators AB

Supreme Court of Connecticut

October 1, 2019

Donita J. KING, Executrix
v.
VOLVO EXCAVATORS AB, et al. (Estate of Daniel H. King), et al.

         Argued December 11, 2018

         Appeal from Superior Court, Judicial District of Windham, Cole-Chu, J.

Page 150

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 151

          Ralph J. Monaco, with whom, on the brief, was Eric J. Garofano, New London, for the appellants (plaintiffs).

         Francis H. LoCoco, pro hac vice, with whom, on the brief, was Mark J. Claflin, Hartford, for the appellees (defendants).

         Robinson, C. J., and Palmer, McDonald, D’Auria, Mullins, Kahn and Ecker, Js.

          OPINION

         MULLINS, J.

         [333 Conn. 284] The plaintiff, Donita J. King, individually and as executrix of the estate of Daniel H. King (decedent), appeals from the judgment of the trial court in favor of the defendants Volvo Group North America, LLC (VGNA), Volvo Construction Equipment North America, LLC (VCENA), and Tyler Equipment Corporation (Tyler Equipment),[1] on claims arising from a workplace [333 Conn. 285] accident in which the bucket

Page 152

of an excavator became dislodged and fell on the decedent, causing fatal injuries. On appeal, the plaintiff asserts that the trial court improperly granted the defendants’ motions for summary judgment. The plaintiff’s primary claim on appeal is that the statute of repose applied to her product liability claims, General Statutes (Rev. to 2015) § 52-577a, is unconstitutional because it creates two classes of claimants— employees who are subject to a ten year statute of repose and nonemployees who are not subject to the ten year statute of repose if the claimant can show that the product was within its useful safe life when the injury occurred. While the defendants’ motions for summary judgment were pending before the trial court, the legislature enacted Number 17-97 of the 2017 Public Acts (P.A. 17-97), which combined those two classes of claimants by removing the limitations provision applicable to employees. In its decision on the motions for summary judgment, the trial court concluded that P.A. 17-97 was not retroactive and applied the statute of repose applicable to employees to bar the plaintiff’s claims.

         We conclude that the trial court improperly rendered judgment in favor of the defendants because the amendment to the statute of repose in P.A. 17-97 retroactively applied to the plaintiff’s claims. As a result, we need not address the plaintiff’s claim on appeal that General Statutes (Rev. to 2015) § 52-577a is unconstitutional. Instead, we conclude that the trial court must consider whether there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the injury occurred during the useful safe life of the product.[2]

         [333 Conn. 286] The following facts and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. The decedent was an employee of King Construction, Inc. (King Construction). On May 30, 2014, the decedent was installing a public water main at a construction site in Windsor. The decedent’s coworker was operating a Volvo model EC340 excavator (excavator), and the decedent was in a trench helping to fill sand on top of a recently installed pipe. As the operator attempted to dump the sand over the water main ...


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