In this wrongful death action, the plaintiffs,
The following facts and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. The plaintiffs, most of whom represent the estates of deceased former employees of the Pratt and Whitney division of United Technologies Corporation (Pratt and Whitney),
The defendants filed a motion to strike the plaintiffs' complaint on the ground that the action was time-barred under § 52-555. See footnote 3 of this opinion. The defendants claimed that the action was untimely because it was brought on behalf of decedents who either had died more than two years before the action was filed or had ceased to remain employed with Pratt and Whitney more than five years before the action was filed.
Thereafter, the trial court granted in part the defendants' motion to strike,
On appeal, the plaintiffs renew the claims that they raised in the trial court. We reject each of the plaintiffs' claims.
Before addressing the merits of those claims, we first set forth the applicable standard of review. "A motion to strike challenges the legal sufficiency of a pleading ... and, consequently, requires no factual findings by the trial court. As a result, our review of the court's ruling is plenary.... We take the facts to be those alleged in the complaint that has been stricken and we construe the complaint in the manner most favorable to sustaining its legal sufficiency.... [I]f facts provable in the complaint would support a cause of action, the motion to strike must be denied.... Thus, we assume the truth of both the specific factual allegations and any facts fairly provable thereunder. In doing so, moreover, we read the allegations broadly ... rather than narrowly." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Craig v. Driscoll, 262 Conn. 312, 321, 813 A.2d 1003 (2003).
Furthermore, each of the plaintiffs' claims raises an issue of statutory construction. "It is well settled that in construing statutes, [o]ur fundamental objective is to ascertain and give effect to the apparent intent of the legislature.... [W]e seek to determine, in a reasoned manner, the meaning of the statutory language as applied to the facts of [the] case, including the question of whether the language actually does apply."
The plaintiffs first claim that the trial court improperly concluded that the applicable statute of limitations is § 52-555 rather than § 52-577c (b). They contend that, although wrongful death claims ordinarily are governed by § 52-555, their action is governed by § 52-577c (b) inasmuch as the allegations of the complaint fall squarely within the language of § 52-577c (b). We reject the plaintiffs' contention.
Furthermore, General Statutes § 52-577c (b) provides that it is the applicable limitation period "[n]otwithstanding the provisions of [General Statutes § ]52-577,"
Our conclusion finds support in the nature and history of the limitation period of § 52-555. As we explained in Ecker v. West Hartford, 205 Conn. 219, 530 A.2d 1056 (1987), "no action for wrongful death existed at common law or exists today in Connecticut except as otherwise provided by the legislature." Id., at 231, 530 A.2d 1056. We noted that, because "§ 52-555 creates a liability where none formerly existed, the statute must be strictly construed and we are not at liberty to extend, modify or enlarge its scope through the mechanics of construction." Id., at 233, 530 A.2d 1056. We further concluded that "the [time] limitation contained within § 52-555 is a jurisdictional prerequisite which cannot be waived and which must be met in order to maintain an action under § 52-555." Id. Thus, § 52-555 is "not to be treated as an ordinary statute of limitation[s] . . . ." Id., at 232, 530 A.2d 1056. Rather, it "is a limitation on the liability itself, and not of the remedy alone." Id. Accordingly, the right to bring a wrongful death claim pursuant to § 52-555 exists only during the statutorily prescribed time period, and expires thereafter. See id., at 232-33, 530 A.2d 1056. Because the limitation period of § 52-555 is jurisdictional in nature, the plaintiffs shoulder a heavy burden of establishing
The plaintiffs nevertheless argue that it is "eminently reasonable" to infer that the legislature intended for the term "personal injury" to include wrongful death. Although the legislature reasonably could have equated personal injury and wrongful death for statute of limitations purposes, the language of the relevant statutory provisions belies the plaintiffs' claim. See, e.g., Leo Fedus & Sons Construction Co. v. Zoning Board of Appeals, 225 Conn. 432, 441-42, 623 A.2d 1007 (1993) ("Courts may not by construction supply omissions ... or add exceptions merely because it appears that good reasons exist for adding them.... The intent of the legislature ... is to be found not in what the legislature meant to say, but in the meaning of what it did say.... It is axiomatic that the court itself cannot rewrite a statute to accomplish a particular result. That is a function of the legislature." [Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.]). Moreover, as we have explained, statutory wrongful death actions and common-law personal injury actions historically have been treated as separate and distinct actions. See, e.g., Ladd v. Douglas Trucking Co., 203 Conn. 187, 191, 523 A.2d 1301 (1987). Finally, our review of other statutory provisions indicates that when the legislature wishes to treat personal injury and wrongful death actions in the same manner, the legislature has done so expressly. See, e.g., General Statutes § 52-114 ("[i]n any action to recover damages for negligently causing the death of a person, or for negligently causing personal injury or property damage, it shall be presumed that such person ... was ... in the exercise of reasonable care" unless contributory negligence is affirmatively pleaded [emphasis added]); General Statutes § 52-184c (a) ("[i]n any civil action to recover damages resulting from personal injury or wrongful death ... in which it is alleged that such injury or death resulted from the negligence of a health care provider ... the claimant shall have the burden of proving ... a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care" [emphasis added]); General Statutes § 52-225d ("[p]ayment of damages in lump sum and periodic installments in personal injury, wrongful death and property damage actions" [emphasis added]); General Statutes § 52-251c (a) (restricting attorney contingency fees in "personal injury, wrongful death and ... property [damage]" actions [emphasis added]); General Statutes § 52-584a (a) (no action against an architect, professional engineer or land surveyor " to recover damages [A] for any deficiency in the design, planning, contract administration, supervision, observation of construction or construction of, or land surveying in connection with, an improvement to real property; [B] for injury to property ... [or] [C] for injury to the person or for wrongful death arising out of any such deficiency ... shall be brought ... more than seven years after substantial completion of such improvement" [emphasis added]).
"Statutes of limitation find their justification in necessity and convenience rather than logic.... There is no reason, constitutional or otherwise, which prevents the legislature from establishing a ... time period that runs from the date of the act or omission complained of ... even though at that date no person had sustained damage and therefore no cause of action had come into existence. . . . It is not the function of the court to alter a legislative policy merely because it produces unfair results. . . . Individual rights and remedies must at times and of necessity give way to the interests and needs of society." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Ecker v. West Hartford, supra, 205 Conn. at 239-41, 530 A.2d 1056; see also Daily v. New Britain Machine Co., 200 Conn. 562, 582, 512 A.2d 893 (1986) (legislature is free to enact, for reasons of policy, statute of repose that, as applied to particular factual scenario, will bar cause of action even before that action has accrued). Thus, the fact that the decedents could not have known that they had been injured prior to the expiration of the limitation period of § 52-555 does not warrant a result that is contrary to the expressed intent of the legislature.
Having concluded that the plaintiffs' action is governed by the limitation period of § 52-555 and, therefore, is time-barred under state law, we next must determine whether the trial court properly concluded that 42 U.S.C. § 9658 does not preempt § 52-555 for purposes of this case. We agree with the determination of the trial court.
We begin our analysis of this issue with a review of the pertinent statutory provisions. Title 42 of the United States Code, § 9658(a)(1), provides: "In the case of any action brought under State law for personal injury, or property damages, which are caused or contributed to by exposure to any hazardous substance, or pollutant or contaminant, released into the environment from a facility, if the applicable limitations period for such action (as specified in the State statute of limitations or under common law) provides a commencement date which is earlier than the federally required commencement date, such period shall commence at the federally required commencement date in lieu of the date specified in such State statute." The term "federally required commencement date" is defined as "the date the plaintiff knew (or reasonably should have known) that the personal injury or property damages ... were caused or contributed to by the hazardous substance or pollutant or contaminant concerned." 42 U.S.C. § 9658(b)(4)(A) (2000). The term "release" is defined as "any spilling, leaking,
As the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has stated, "[t]he language of [42 U.S.C.] § 9658(a)(1), specifying that the applicable state limitations period shall commence at the federally required commencement date in lieu of an earlier date provided by state law, makes it indisputably clear that Congress intended, in the cases to which [42 U.S.C.] § 9658 applies, that the [federally required commencement date] preempt state law accrual rules if, under those rules, accrual would occur earlier than the date on which the cause of the personal injury was, or reasonably should have been, known to be the hazardous substance."
CERCLA's "federally required commencement date" applies only to state actions for personal injury or property damage caused by exposure to hazardous substances "released into the environment from a facility ...." 42 U.S.C. § 9658(a)(1) (2000). The definition of the term "release," for purposes of CERCLA, expressly excludes "any release which results in exposure to persons solely within a workplace, with respect to a claim which such persons may assert against the employer of such persons ...." (Emphasis added.) 42 U.S.C. § 9601(22) (2000). Thus, to the extent that the plaintiffs' action is predicated on the decedents' alleged exposure to toxic agents within the workplace, it
The plaintiffs maintain nonetheless that the allegedly continuing or ongoing contamination outside the workplace constitutes a "release" into the "environment" from a "facility" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. §§ 9658(a)(1) and 9601(8), (9) and (22). Specifically, the plaintiffs contend that they have satisfied each of those three elements of 42 U.S.C. § 9658(a)(1) by virtue of their allegation that the contaminants, to which the decedents initially had been exposed inside the workplace, lingered on the decedents' skin and clothing, and, consequently, resulted in ongoing contamination in the decedents' motor vehicles and homes outside the workplace. A strong argument can be made, however, that the plaintiffs' allegations fall within the aforementioned workplace exclusion because the plaintiffs have failed to allege that the decedents had been exposed to any additional contaminants outside the workplace. Rather, the plaintiffs simply have alleged that the decedents continued to experience contamination from their initial workplace exposure. Thus, the plaintiffs' ongoing contamination allegations are entirely derivative of their allegations regarding the decedents' initial workplace exposure. Accordingly, we are dubious as to whether these allegations fall outside the workplace exclusion of 42 U.S.C. § 9601(22).
Nevertheless, we conclude that the plaintiffs cannot prevail because they have failed to allege a release of contaminants into the "environment" within the meaning of CERCLA.
As the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals observed in Covalt v. Carey Canada, Inc., 860 F.2d 1434 (7th Cir.1988), "[i]t is lexically possible to treat the `environment' as everything pertaining to the planet Earth, so that the instant a container of asbestos is opened it is released `into [the local portion of] the environment'. Such a global treatment erases `released into the environment' as a limitation, however, by ensuring that it is always satisfied. No substance, except perhaps an injected drug, harms anyone unless it was at least for an instant in an `environment'. A reading of this sort trivializes statutory language. The text [of the statutory scheme] makes more sense if read to refer to more widespread releases that affect strangers . . . ." Id., at 1436-37; see also First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville v. United States Gypsum Co., 882 F.2d 862, 869 (4th Cir.1989) (CERCLA does not apply to action to recover cost of removing asbestos from interior of building), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1070, 110 S.Ct. 1113, 107 L.Ed.2d 1020 (1990); Electric Power Board v. Westinghouse Electric Corp., 716 F.Supp. 1069, 1081 (E.D.Tenn.1988) (leak of dialectric fluid "within the confines of a penthouse" does not constitute release into "environment" within meaning of CERCLA), aff'd sub nom. Electric Power Board v. Monsanto Co., 879 F.2d 1368 (6th Cir.1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1022, 110 S.Ct. 724, 107 L.Ed.2d 743 (1990); Prudential Ins. Co. v. United States Gypsum, 711 F.Supp. 1244, 1255 n. 3 (D.N.J.1989) (it is "question[able] whether the release of asbestos fibers inside [a] building constitutes a release into the environment as defined under CERCLA given the observations of other courts that the `environment' referred to in the statute includes the atmosphere, external to the building, and hence does not encompass the release of a substance inside an enclosed building"); Knox v. AC & S, Inc., 690 F.Supp. 752, 756-58 (S.D.Ind.1988) (asbestos fibers emitted from insulation into interior of building not released into "environment" within meaning of CERCLA). Furthermore, we find it noteworthy that the Environmental Protection Agency, the agency responsible for the implementation of CERCLA, has defined "ambient air" as "air that is not completely enclosed in a building or structure . . . ." 50 Fed.Reg. 13,456, 13,462 (April 4, 1985). In the present case, the plaintiffs have alleged that toxic agents were released from the decedents' skin and clothing into their homes and motor vehicles. Because both homes and motor vehicles are enclosed areas and such areas "are not considered to be part of the environment for the purposes of [42 U.S.C. §] 9658(a)(1)"; Ruffing v. Union Carbide Corp., supra, 193 Misc.2d at 366, 746 N.Y.S.2d 798; the plaintiffs have failed to allege a release into the "environment" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. §§ 9658(a)(1) and 9601(8).
The judgment is affirmed.
In this opinion the other justices concurred.
"(1) Exception to State statutes
"In the case of any action brought under State law for personal injury, or property damages, which are caused or contributed to by exposure to any hazardous substance, or pollutant or contaminant, released into the environment from a facility, if the applicable limitations period for such action (as specified in the State statute of limitations or under common law) provides a commencement date which is earlier than the federally required commencement date, such period shall commence at the federally required commencement date in lieu of the date specified in such State statute.
"(2) State law generally applicable
"Except as provided in paragraph (1), the statute of limitations established under State law shall apply in all actions brought under State law for personal injury, or property damages, which are caused or contributed to by exposure to any hazardous substance, or pollutant or contaminant, released into the environment from a facility.
"(3) Actions under section 9607
"Nothing in this section shall apply with respect to any cause of action brought under section 9607 of this title.
"As used in this section —
"(1) Subchapter I terms
"The terms used in this section shall have the same meaning as when used in subchapter I of this chapter.
"(2) Applicable limitations period
"The term `applicable limitations period' means the period specified in a statute of limitations during which a civil action referred to in subsection (a)(1) of this section may be brought.
"(3) Commencement date
"The term `commencement date' means the date specified in a statute of limitations as the beginning of the applicable limitations period.
"(4) Federally required commencement date
"(A) In general
"Except as provided in subparagraph (B), the term `federally required commencement date' means the date the plaintiff knew (or reasonably should have known) that the personal injury or property damages referred to in subsection (a)(1) of this section were caused or contributed to by the hazardous substance or pollutant or contaminant concerned.
"(B) Special rules
"In the case of a minor or incompetent plaintiff, the term `federally required commencement date' means the later of the date referred to in subparagraph (A) or the following:
"(i) In the case of a minor, the date on which the minor reaches the age of majority, as determined by State law, or has a legal representative appointed.
"(ii) In the case of an incompetent individual, the date on which such individual becomes competent or has had a legal representative appointed."
The plaintiffs' reliance on Sharp v. Wyatt, Inc., supra, 230 Conn. 12, 644 A.2d 871, also is misplaced. In Sharp, the decedents allegedly died from as phyxiation after descending into a storage vault containing petroleum products. Id., at 13, 644 A.2d 871. The plaintiffs, representatives of the decedents' estates, brought a product liability action against the named defendant, Wyatt, Inc. (Wyatt), a wholesaler of petroleum products, among others, alleging, inter alia, that Wyatt had failed to warn of the hazards associated with the storage of the petroleum products. Id., at 13-14, 644 A.2d 871. The trial court granted Wyatt's motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment thereon, from which the plaintiffs appealed to the Appellate Court. Id., at 14, 644 A.2d 871. One of the issues raised on appeal to the Appellate Court was whether § 52-577a, the statute of limitations applicable to product liability claims, or § 52-577c (b), the statute of limitations applicable to personal injury actions predicated on exposure to hazardous chemicals or pollutants, governed the plaintiffs' claim. Sharp v. Wyatt, Inc., 31 Conn.App. 824, 852, 627 A.2d 1347 (1993). The Appellate Court concluded that § 52-577c (b) is applicable only when there has been an exposure within the meaning of the statute; see id., at 854, 627 A.2d 1347; and that a factual question existed with respect to whether the decedents had been exposed to petroleum. Id., at 854-55, 627 A.2d 1347. Accordingly, the Appellate Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case to that court for, inter alia, a resolution of that factual issue and, in a per curiam opinion, we affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court. Sharp v. Wyatt, supra, 230 Conn. at 16, 644 A.2d 871. Contrary to the plaintiffs' claim, Sharp does not control the outcome of the present case. The plaintiffs in Sharp did not bring an action for wrongful death pursuant to § 52-555 but, rather, a product liability action pursuant to General Statutes § 52-572q. As we have explained, § 52-577c (b) expressly preempts § 52-577a, the statute of limitations applicable to product liability actions. See General Statutes § 52-572m (b) ("`[p]roduct liability claim' includes all claims or actions brought for personal injury, death or property damage" [emphasis added]). Perhaps more importantly, however, the sole issue relating to the statute of limitations that we considered in Sharp was the fact-based question of whether the deaths of the decedents had been caused by exposure to petroleum products. Consequently, the court had no occasion to address the issue raised by the present case, namely, whether § 52-577c (b) applies to wrongful death claims.