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Breaking Legal Developments

06-27-2008

Published by:
Peter A. Lynch, Esq.
of Cozen O'Connor
palynch@cozen.com
http://www.cozen.com

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:      This weekly newsletter covers:

  1. CONN TRIAL CT FINDS ELECTRICITY IS A PRODUCT FOR PURPOSES OF CONN. PRODUCT LIABILITY LAW


(1) CONN TRIAL CT FINDS ELECTRICITY IS A PRODUCT FOR PURPOSES OF CONN. PRODUCT LIABILITY LAW

In Travelers Indemnity Co. of Am. V. Conn. Light & Power (June 3, 2008) CVO75012441, available at 2008 Conn.Super. LEXIS 1387, the Superior court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Hartford at Hartford in an unreported decision reviewed plaintiff insurer's negligence and violation of Connecticut Product Liability Act. The plaintiff's insureds owned a home that had a handhole/vault which contained defendant's underground electrical distribution system. The system included a secondary connector block, which the defendants were obligated to maintain. The insured's reported voltage variations in their house. The defendants performed tests and identified a defective neutral connection within the vault and cited it as the source of the voltage fluctuations within the home. They advised the problem was fixed. After the repairs were made the house was damaged by fire alleged to have been caused by voltage fluctuations.

The defendant's challenged the strict liability cause of action. The court noted a split in Connecticut on if electricity can be classified as a product for strict liability purposes. The court held once it passes through the meter of the consumer, it is a product for purposes of imposing strict liability on the seller. That meant even if the neutral connector caused the delivery of defective electricity, the electricity was still sold by defendants in a defective manner. Further, the defendants were alleged responsible for maintenance of the neutral connector negating an allegation of a break in the chain of causation.

The court relied on a California case Piece v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (1985) 166 Cal.App.3d 68, noting imposition of strict liability creates an incentive for the defendant to reallocate resources to avoid incidents in the future. It spreads the risk to millions of consumers and not on those blameless victims chosen by chance. Those who benefit from a product should bear the associated costs.

The court concluded electricity is a product for purposes of The Connecticut Product Liability Law.

Mr. Lynch can be reached at Cozen and O'Connor, 501 West Broadway, Suite 1610, San Diego, California 92101, 800-782-3366 (voice), 619-234-7831 (fax), palynch@cozen.com (e-mail), http://www.cozen.com. Follow us on Twitter at @firesandrain.

Please direct comments, suggestions, stories, and other items to the author by e-mail at palynch@cozen.com

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