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MUNICIPAL LAW: Connecticut Supreme Court overturns eighty-year-old precedent that municipality could be held liable for negligent maintenance of drains and sewers

MUNICIPAL LAW: Connecticut Supreme Court Overturns Eighty-year-old Precedent That Municipality Could Be Held Liable For Negligent Maintenance Of Drains And Sewers

Plaintiffs brought suit against the Town of Naugatuck for negligent maintenance of storm drains resulting in flooding of their property eight times in three years.  The plaintiffs relied on Supreme Court case Spitzer v. Waterbury, 113 Conn. 84, 88, 154 A. 157 (1931), that held “the work of constructing drains and sewers, as well as that of keeping them in repair, is ministerial, and the municipality is responsible for negligence in its performance.”  The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled this “decision must be overruled in light of modern case law governing the distinction between ministerial and discretionary duties.”  The Court reasoned that unlike in Spitzer, where the court found that construction and repair of storm drains and sewers was ministerial because “they were incidental to the municipality’s statutorily imposed duty to maintain its streets and highways”, modern principles of governmental immunity in determining whether a duty is discretionary or ministerial “is not whether the duty was imposed on the municipality by statute or regulations, but whether there is any statute, ‘city charter provision, ordinance, regulation, rule, policy, or other directive [requiring the government official to act in a]prescribed manner.’”  George W. Northrup, Et Al. v. Henry J. Wikowski, Jr., Et Al, SC 20023, July 2, 2019

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