This is an appeal from the judgment of the trial court granting the defendant Middlesex Memorial Hospital's motion for summary judgment. The issue presented is whether a hospital that furnishes defective blood for transfusion to a patient, who is injured as a result thereof, can be liable under the doctrine of strict liability. This is a question of first impression in this court.
The underlying facts are not in dispute. On November 25, 1981, the plaintiff, Lenny R. Zichichi, instituted a product liability action against the defendant pursuant to General Statutes § 52-572m et seq.
On May 16, 1986, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. In support of its motion, the defendant argued that Connecticut's blood shield statute,
In opposition to the defendant's motion, the plaintiff argued that § 19a-280 does not apply to claims based on strict liability in tort. The plaintiff argued that § 19a-280 applies only to breach of warranty claims and therefore does not bar his suit.
In a decision dated July 17, 1986, the trial court, holding that under § 19a-280 the transfer of blood cannot be the basis of a product liability action as it is a "service" rather than "a sale of a product," granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment. On July 28, 1986, the plaintiff filed an appeal in the Appellate Court. On January 28, 1987, this court transferred the appeal to itself. Practice Book § 4023.
On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the trial court erred in granting the defendant's motion for summary judgment. Specifically, the plaintiff challenges the trial court's determination that § 19a-280 applies to bar a strict liability claim brought pursuant to § 52-572m et seq.
The plaintiff attempted to plead a cause of action based on strict liability in tort, alleging in his complaint that a sale of blood occurred, that part of the defendant's business is selling blood, that the blood reached him without substantial change, that the blood was defective and unreasonably dangerous, and that it caused him injury. See 2 Restatement (Second), Torts § 402A. Because the facts which gave rise to the plaintiff's lawsuit occurred after October 1, 1979, the plaintiff's claim necessarily was brought as a product liability claim pursuant to § 52-572m et seq. Daily v. New Britain Machine Co., 200 Conn. 562, 571, 512 A.2d 893 (1986); see Savona v. General Motors Corporation, 640 F. Sup. 6 (D. Conn. 1985); Collucci v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 585 F. Sup. 529 (D. Conn. 1984).
General Statutes § 52-572m et seq. does not define the term "product," nor has this court had the opportunity to determine whether the transfer of blood by a hospital to a patient is a "sale" of a "product." In
General Statutes § 19a-280, which is entitled "Sale of blood, tissue and organs" and which is referred to as our "blood shield" statute, provides: "The implied warranties of merchantability and fitness shall not be applicable to a contract for the sale of human blood, blood plasma, or other human tissue or organs from a blood bank or reservoir of such other tissues or organs. Such blood, blood plasma, and the components, derivatives or fractions thereof, or tissue or organs shall not be considered commodities subject to sale or barter, but shall be considered as medical services." (Emphasis added.)
Section 19a-280 clearly states that the transfer of blood shall not be considered a commodity subject to sale or barter, but shall be considered a medical service. Although the parties agree that the wording of § 19a-280 is clear, their respective interpretations of the application of that statute differ dramatically. The plaintiff argues for a narrow interpretation of § 19a-280. The plaintiff maintains that the "`blood shield' statute was patently designed to apply only to breach of warranty actions" brought under the Uniform Commercial Code and that it is "clear" that it "does not address product liability claims." The defendant, on the other hand, advocates a much broader application of the statute and argues that the "legislature has declared that provision of blood is a service, not a sale" for all purposes. The defendant contends that "[s]ince no sale is possible, a transfer of blood [cannot] result in a product liability claim under § 52-572m." The question before this court, therefore, is whether the transfer of
We agree with the trial court that under § 19a-280 the plaintiff is precluded from asserting a product liability claim arising out of the transfer of blood by a hospital to a patient. "Where the words of a statute fail to indicate clearly whether the provision applies in certain circumstances, it must be construed by this court...." Board of Trustees v. Freedom of Information Commission, 181 Conn. 544, 550, 436 A.2d 266 (1980). Under our rules of statutory construction, this court is to be guided by the language, purpose and legislative history of the statute in question. Caulkins v. Petrillo, 200 Conn. 713, 716-17, 513 A.2d 43 (1986). Although § 19a-280 does not use the term "product," the plain and unambiguous wording of that statute provides that the provision of blood is to be considered a medical service not a sale. "The title of legislation when it is acted upon by the legislature is significant and often a valuable aid to construction...." (Citations omitted.) Miller v. Board of Education, 166 Conn. 189, 194, 348 A.2d 584 (1974). The title of this bill was "An Act Concerning Furnishing Blood and Tissue as a Medical Service." (Emphasis added.) Additionally, Senate Bill No. 885, which was passed as Public Acts 1971, No. 397, and ultimately codified as § 19a-280, contains the following statement of purpose: "The furnishing of blood, blood plasma or tissue is a medical service and should not be construed in the same manner as the sale of ordinary merchandise." The statement of purpose of a bill may be considered in determining its intent. Seals v. Hickey, 186 Conn. 337, 345, 441 A.2d 604 (1982); Miller v. Board of Education, supra. In light of this statement of purpose, it is indicated that the legislature intended to treat blood and blood derivatives differently from other "products." Without the factual predicate of a "sale" of a "product," the plaintiff has no basis for asserting a claim under § 52-572m et seq.
The first difference between the two statutes is that the Louisiana statute is expressly self-limiting while § 19a-280 is not. The Louisiana statute is contained in the sales article of the Louisiana civil code. Thus, by using the terms "for the purposes of this Article," the Louisiana legislature expressly limited the application of the statute to the area of sales contracts. By contrast, § 19a-280 is not limited to any particular type of transaction. Additionally, § 19a-280 is part of title 19a, entitled "Public Health and Well-Being" and contained in chapter 368l, entitled "Anatomical Donations." As the defendant correctly points out in its brief, there is no specific indication that the legislature intended to limit the statute to situations involving the Uniform Commercial Code, General Statutes § 42a-1-101 et seq. Indeed, had the legislature intended to limit § 19a-280 to Uniform Commercial Code transactions, it could easily
Although our conclusion that § 19a-280 precludes the plaintiff from bringing a claim based on strict liability in tort arising out of the transfer of blood is necessarily based on the construction of our statutes, we note that this conclusion is consistent with the view adopted in other jurisdictions. Nearly every state has a statute which regulates the transfer of blood and its derivatives, and all of these statutes, in one way or another,
Our conclusion is also consistent with policy behind the enactment of the blood shield statute. Although the legislative history of § 19a-280 is virtually nonexistent, one of the driving forces behind the promulgation of "blood shield" statutes, such as § 19a-280, is to ensure that certain medical services, namely, the provision of blood and tissue, remain available to citizens in need of such services. See generally comment, "Blood Transfusions and the Transmission of Serum Hepatitis: The Need for Statutory Reform," 24 Am. U. L. Rev. 367 (1975). As one court aptly stated, "[t]he public policy represented by these statutes is not difficult to discern: blood transfusions are essential in the medical area and there are not now, and realistically there may never be, tests which can guarantee with absolute certainty that the donated blood is uncontaminated with certain viruses." Garvey v. St. Elizabeth Hospital, supra, 759. These statutes reflect a legislative judgment that to require providers to serve as insurers of the safety of these materials might impose such an overwhelming burden as to discourage the gathering and distribution of blood. To ensure that such services remain adequate and affordable, legislatures have chosen to limit liability to defects that are the result of negligence, thus bringing the provision of such services necessary for medical treatment into the same category as the provision of other medical services.
Despite the plaintiff's assertion to the contrary in his invocation of the constitution of Connecticut, article
We conclude, therefore, that the trial court did not err in granting the defendant's motion for summary judgment.
There is no error.
In this opinion the other justices concurred.
"(b) A claim may be asserted successfully under said sections notwithstanding the claimant did not buy the product from or enter into any contractual relationship with the product seller."
Interestingly, two courts have decided that this section precludes an action sounding in strict liability in tort. Sawyer v. Methodist Hospital, 522 F.2d 1102, 1105 (6th Cir. 1975); St. Martin v. Doty, 493 S.W.2d 95, 97 (Tenn. App. 1972).