General Motors was found liable for negligence last summer after an eight-year-old climbed into her parents’ 2004 Chevrolet Suburban, inserted the key into the ignition and placed the car in neutral;  the vehicle subsequently rolled downhill, crashed into a tree and fatally injured the child. The administrator of the estate for the child and her parent sued the car manufacturer and seller, General Motors Corporation ("Old GM") which later filed for bankruptcy. New GM then purchased some of Old GM’s assets and liabilities. The plaintiffs alleged that the Suburban was defective when manufactured and that neither Old GM nor New GM sufficiently warned of the risk of "rollaway" incidents. At trial, the jurors ruled against New GM on two theories of liability. The jury held New GM liable for the actions of Old GM, which manufactured the vehicle and also held it liable as a "product seller" that breached its duty to warn post-sale.

During trial, New GM argued that the Connecticut Product Liability Act (CPLA) does not recognize the existence of a post-sale duty to warn. The Court, interpreting state law, concluded that, "if this question were before the Connecticut Supreme Court, they would conclude there was such a theory of liability under the [CPLA]."  Therefore, the Court permitted the claims to advance to the jury. After the jury returned a $2.9 million dollar verdict against New GM, New GM moved for certification of the question, "under what circumstances, if any, does Connecticut impose a post-sale duty to warn?" 

The Motion for Certification was denied by United States District Judge Janet C. Hall. Judge Hall found that there was controlling law on the issue that came out of the Second Circuit in Densberger v. United Technologies Corp., 297 F.ed 66 (2d. Cir. 2002). While New GM argued that the CPLA only contains a duty to warn at the time of manufacture, the Densberger Court found that “the post-sale duty to warn exists in negligence and is cognizable under the CPLA.”  Densberger, 297 F.3d at 71.

Judge Hall’s ruling is significant, because it affirms that Connecticut law recognizes the existence of a post-sale duty to warn. As such, an asbestos manufacturer sued in this jurisdiction can be found to have had duty to warn post-sale of possible health hazards resulting from exposure to its product which it learned about before and after the sale.