Matt Shafner of New London, Connecticut, is a nationally recognized lawyer in the fields of asbestos injury, personal injury, maritime injury and workers compensation. He was admitted to practice in Connecticut, the Federal Courts of Appeals in the 1st and 2nd Circuits and the U.S. Supreme Court. His reported decisions have been published by the Appellate Court, Supreme Court, and the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 1st and 2nd Circuits. (See list of reported cases.)
Attorney Shafner is a graduate of the University of Connecticut with a BA in 1958 and law degree in 1959. He was a founder with John C. O’Brien of the law firm of O’Brien, Shafner, Stuart, Kelly & Morris from 1966 to 2008 in Groton, Connecticut and is now a partner with Suisman, Shapiro in New London, CT.
Attorney Shafner has been named among the Super Lawyers of Connecticut in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, as well as in New England and Metropolitan New York and can be found in the Personal Injury Lawyers Across the USA. He has recently been selected to appear in the 2010 Edition of Best Lawyers in America.
Attorney Shafner is a past president of the New London County Bar Association, on the Board of Governors of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association and past State Delegate to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America where he has lectured on topics related to trial practice, workers’ compensation and occupational disease. His lectures include an address to the XI Triennial World Congress of Pathology in Jerusalem, 1981 on the legal aspects of asbestos disease. Matt Shafner was awarded the first Paul Tremont Award for Advocacy recognizing the first asbestos litigation in the Northeast filed in 1975, as well as other achievements. Attorney Shafner is a member of the Million Dollar Advocate Forum.
Attorney Shafner has published numerous articles in law journals on various subjects including:
• “The Use and Abuse of Protective Orders”
The Forum, CTLA 1988
• “Hidden Longshore Benefits in Occupational Disease Cases”
Melvin Belli Seminar, ATLA, 1985
• “Maritime Injuries in or near Connecticut Waters”
• “The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act”
The CT Workers Compensation Manual by Asselin, Supplement, Co-Author, 1988
• The Spirit of the Marathon - What to Expect in Your First Marathon
Collected and edited by Gail Kisleuitz
Attorney Shafner has handled some of the most interesting cases in Southeastern Connecticut and the state. Attorney Shafner initiated the first asbestos litigation in New England in workers’ compensation claims against General Dynamics/Electric Boat Division in Groton, CT in 1973 and then in lawsuits against the asbestos suppliers in 1975. The lawsuits started with one asbestos case and one lung cancer case plus the employee’s wife who had pleural changes related to asbestos exposure. The case then quickly grew to twelve (12) cases and then fifty (50) cases including asbestos, lung cancer, mesothelioma, laryngeal cancer, esophageal cancer as well as GI cancer. The first settlement of fifty (50) cases occurred in 1980 for about 6.5 Million Dollars, with cases of asbestos throat cancer, lung cancer and mesothelioma. It was of great interest that of the fifty (50) cases one case was a pleural mesothelioma, and one case was a peritoneal mesothelioma. Most of the asbestos cases arose in the Electric Boat Division of Groton, CT in Groton, Connecticut and Quonset Point, Rhode Island.
As the asbestos cases grew more clients came from outside Electric Boat including the power plants at Millstone in Waterford, CT, Yankee Power in Haddam Neck and in Rhode Island, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in East Hartford, North Haven and Middletown, CT, and smaller companies such as the Rogers Company in Manchester, CT, making plastic panels for electric panel boards reinforced with asbestos fibers. A particularly poignant case arose out of American Optical in Putnam where it fabricated gloves and aprons out of chrysotile asbestos cloth and gas masks with crocidolite asbestos filters. The son of the plant manager worked there during school vacations. A biking champion of Connecticut, he developed pleural mesothelioma at age 41 and died soon after leaving a young wife and two (2) infant children. Ironically, his father, the plant manager, developed pleural mesothelioma several years later and also died. Another unusual mesothelioma case was the wife of an Electric Boat sheet metal worker in Groton, CT who died of pleural mesothelioma. Her only exposure was doing the laundry of her husband’s work clothes. Claims were filed against the bankrupt companies and the asbestos companies which still survive. These occupational disease cases all too often result in wrongful death.
An interesting maritime injury case involved Admiralty law when a tow boat attempting to pull a pleasure boat off a sand bar in the Connecticut River. After three (3) unsuccessful attempts to free the boat about 80 feet of tow line was left 4 feet above the water. At sunset a 23 year old boy riding a jet ski went between the 2 boats and was killed by the tow line. He left a 3 year old child surviving him. A trust fund has been established for his child from the settlement.
Recently in a case of statewide importance Attorney Shafner successfully handled an appeal, to the Supreme Court of Connecticut, in a medical malpractice case. Attorneys for plaintiffs in Connecticut must file a Certificate of Good Faith that a malpractice case has merit when the case is filed. Plaintiffs must also attach a written doctor’s report that the standard of care was violated. Many defendants have recently filed Motions to Dismiss claiming that doctor’s written reports must also state that the violation of the standard of care also caused the injuries. A unanimous Supreme Court ruled in favor of our client because the statute does not require such a report and frequently causation cannot be determined until after discovery is completed. Attorney Shafner handled the appeal in this important medical malpractice case and the Connecticut Trial Lawyers filed an Amicus brief.
The decision to electrify the rail line from New Haven to Boston required the construction of cement foundations 10 to 18 feet long and 18 inches in diameter. They were trucked on flat beds to the ongoing construction as the electrification progressed. The cement cylinders were stored in 2 rows of 3 over 3 with wooden separators on the flat beds. They were then unloaded by the railroad contractor with a forklift. The forklift would then pick up 3 cylinders at a time and bring them to the rail site for later installation. As the forklift attempted to pick the top 3 cylinders it was only able to pick the first and middle cylinders leaving the third precariously balanced on the edge. As the truck driver was walking by the side of the truck the third cylinder rolled off smashing the truck driver’s leg which had to be amputated. The case was resolved against the manufacturer who loaded the cylinders, and the construction contractor who was unloading the cylinders for 2.3 Million Dollars. Construction site accidents and trucking accidents are frequently serious and always challenging.
An unusual construction case involved a power plant boiler in New Hampshire that exploded due to a faulty design and killed a 25 year old man represented by Attorney Shafner. It was the decedent’s last day of employment inside the plant. Investigation revealed that this was the second time the same boiler exploded, the first explosion having only caused extensive property damage. Further discovery uncovered three (3) explosions of the same boiler design on the West coast. The case settled after three (3) days of trial in New Hampshire. This construction site injury of a power plant explosion resulting in wrongful death was resolved successfully for 1.5 Million Dollars.
Shafner is currently attorney with Richard Alexander and Amanda Howes of California representing 82 brain cancer cases of the aircraft workers at Pratt and Whitney exposed to solvents, degreasers and radioactive metals. They occurred mostly in the North Haven, East Hartford and Middletown plants. They are all pending in the Workers’ Compensation Commission in Middletown, CT.
One of the most rewarding cases Attorney Shafner handled was a pro bono case handled for Trial Lawyers Care, a non-profit organization started by the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. The victim was 23 and had worked for the Trade Spark Company of Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the Twin Towers #1 for just over one year after graduating from college. Attorney Shafner attended special training programs in order to properly represent the decedent’s family. A poignant aspect of the case was the decedent helped his best friend in college get a job with him the previous June. So there were two (2) wrongful deaths.
Any mention of specific dollar amounts do not necessarily mean that other such cases will result in similar result as there are many variables and each case is unique.
Attorney Shafner's Reported Appellate Decisions:
• Champagne v. Raybestos-Manhatten, 212 Conn. 509.
• Gray/Sobelewski v. General Dynamics, 565 F.2d 208.
• Dias v. Grady, 292 Conn. 350
• Chappell v. Pfizer, 115 Conn. App. 703
• Douthright v. Northeast Corridor Foundations, 72 Conn. App. 319
• Nunes v. State of CT, CRB 2-01-2, Case No. 4360
• Frankovitch v. Burton, 185 Conn. 14
• Palombo v. OWCP, and General Dynamics, 937 F.2d 70
• Exec. Board Local 1302 v. United Brotherhood of Carpenters, 477 F.2d 612
• Collins v. Anthem Health Plans, Inc., 275 Conn. 309.
• State v. Vans, 154 Conn. 255
• Buyham v. General Dynamics, 14 BRBS 614
• Paquin v. General Dynamics, 4 BRBS 383
• Crawford v. General Dynamics, 7 BRBS 781
• Horton v. General Dynamics, 20 BRBS 670
• Puzaut v. General Dynamics, 8 BRBS 670
• Baldwin v. General Dynamics, 5 BRBS 579
• Eleazer v. General Dynamics, 7 BRBS 75
• Eckstein v. General Dynamics, 11 BRBS 781
• Buck v. General Dynamics, 22 BRBS 111
• Kerch v. Air America, 8 BRBS 490, aff in part, 597 F.2d 773
• Sobolewski v. General Dynamics, 5 BRBS 474, aff’d, 565 F.2d 208
• LaFaille v. General Dynamics, 18 BRBS 88, rev. other grounds, 884 F.2d 54
• Holy v. General Dynamics, 17 BRBS 229
Negligence; Workers Compensation; Municipal Law; Occupational Injuries; Maritime Personal Injury