Court Dismisses Cross-Claims for Lack of Ripeness Since There Was No Judgment Against Ford Defendants Connecticut Superior Court, Judicial District of Fairfield, May 25, 2016
The plaintiffs filed suit against multiple defendants for violation of the Connecticut Product Liability Act, loss of consortium, fraud and premises liability, alleging that the plaintiff Kenneth Reed contracted mesothelioma as a result of direct and secondary exposure to asbestos. After the plaintiffs settled with or dismissed sixty-three of the defendants, the complaint was amended as to the only remaining defendants: Ford Motor Company, Bridge-Haven Ford Truck Sales, Inc. and Stamford Motors (collectively, the Ford Defendants). The Ford Defendants answered the amended complaint and, in turn, filed cross-claims against all other defendants.
The Ford Defendants’ cross-claims were claims for contribution pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 52-572o. Section 52-572o(e) provides:
If a judgment has been rendered, any action for contribution must be brought within one year after the judgment becomes final. If no judgment has been rendered, the person bringing the action for contribution either must have (1) discharged by payment the common liability within the period of the statute of limitations applicable to the right of action of the claimant against him and commenced the action for contribution within one year after payment, or (2) agreed while action was pending to discharge the common liability and, within one year after the agreement, have paid the liability and brought an action for contribution.
During the course of jury selection, the court expressed concern that the Ford Defendants’ cross-claims were premature based on § 52-572o(e). Specifically, there had no judgment against the Ford Defendants, no payment of a judgment, and no agreement by the Ford Defendants to discharge “the common liability” and to pay the liability.
After briefing on the issue, the court dismissed the cross-claims sua sponte, underscoring that the Connecticut Products Liability Act was an exclusive remedy for claims falling within its scope and “abrogated the common law rules of indemnification and contribution in the context of product liability suits where all the defendants are parties to the original action.” Since the Ford Defendants and the cross-defendants were all parties to the original action, the Ford Defendants’ right to contribution had to exist pursuant to § 52-572o(e). The court determined that the conditions precedent articulated in § 52-572o(e) had not occurred and that the Ford Defendants’ claims for contribution were therefore not ripe and non-justiciable, warranting a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.