Pellecchia v. Connecticut Light And Power Company
Under the 1965 Supreme Court case of Kaplan v. Merberg Wrecking Corporation and its progeny, where two parties with independent duties to exercise reasonable care for the safety of another person separately breach those duties in ways that cause harm to the other person by exposing him to one and the same dangerous condition, equity permits the shifting of all responsibility for the injured person's resulting damages to the party who, by virtue of its control of the dangerous condition to the exclusion of the other negligent party, was the direct and immediate cause of the accident. Anthony J. Pellecchia, administrator of the estate of Anthony E. Pellecchia, brought suit against various defendants including Quinebaug Valley Emergency Communications, Inc., alleging that Quinebaug negligently caused the death of his decedent after receiving a tip of a downed power line by failing to notify the power company, Connecticut Light and Power Company and others, that the line that ultimately caused the decedent's death was down. Quinebaug brought a third party complaint against the power company alleging that the company failed to de-energize the line after it also received a tip regarding the downed line from a member of the public. Quinebaug claimed that its own alleged negligence was passive and the power's company's failure to de-energize the line after receiving the other tip was active. The court granted the power's company's motion to strike Quinebaug's complaint. Quinebaug appealed. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment. Unlike the trial court, the Appellate Court found that Quinebaug sufficiently alleged the third element of common law indemnification under Kaplanthat the power company was in control of the situation that caused the decedent's death, to the exclusion of Quinebaug. The dangerous condition or "situation" that allegedly caused the harm by virtue of Quinebaug's negligence was the downed power line and not the negligent conduct itself. The downed line was "the situation" over which the power company must be shown to have had exclusive control before its liability to indemnify Quinebaug can be established. The power company's alternative argument was rejected that Quinebaug's complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to establish that Quinebaug's negligence was passive. Even if Quinebaug had relayed notice, the risk would not have been eliminated until the power company acted to eliminate it.