Archive for the ‘Connecticut’ Category

Bitten – Questions Certified to Supreme Court on Huge Jury Verdict for Student Stricken by Illness on School Tour (CT)

October 16, 2015

Munn v. Hotchkiss (Connecticut)

A fifteen-year-old freshman at a private boarding school participated in a month-long summer program in China organized by the school.  Prior to participating in the program, the school sent the student and her parents a packet outlining the activities and a set of legal forms requesting that the parents waive legal claims against the school.  The school also sent medical advice regarding the trip, including a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) webpage and a note that the school’s infirmary could “serve as a travel clinic.”  However, the CDC website reference was incorrect and the infirmary was unable to provide independent medical advice.  The school also later sent an itinerary, a packing list (including a general reference to “bug spray”), and a handbook on international travel.  However, there were no specific warnings about insect-borne diseases where health risks were mentioned in the materials.

During the program, the students went on a weekend excursion without any bug sprays warnings being given.  After walking through trees and brush, the student had numerous bug bites and an itchy welt on her left arm.  Ten days later, the student awoke with a headache, fever, and wooziness.  Her condition deteriorated and she was taken to the hospital.  Eventually, the student’s parents traveled to China from the United States to be with her in the hospital.  She was severely ill and partially paralyzed, and was airlifted back to New York.  The student was diagnosed with tick-borne encephalitis (“TBE”), a viral infectious disease that affects the central nervous system.  She lost the ability to speak and lost cognitive function, although she managed to live a functional life, finishing high school and attending college.

The student and her parents filed a diversity action in federal court against the school, alleging that the school was negligent in the planning and supervision of the trip.  Plaintiffs claimed that the school failed to warn them about the risks of viral encephalitis and failed to provide her with protective clothing, bug spray, or vaccinations.  They also alleged that the school failed to provide medical personnel on the trip and failed to establish procedures for medical emergencies.  The defendant school argued that the “Agreement Waiver, and Release of Liability” form that was signed by the student’s parents prior to the program precluded liability, but the District Court excluded the document, finding that its language was ambiguous and that it was contrary to public policy under Connecticut law.

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“Baled” Out – Woman Trips on Stairs at Farm; Indemnity Agreement in Release Contrary to Public Policy (CT)

September 2, 2015

Squinobal v. Zenko (Connecticut)

Plaintiff was injured when she slipped and fell on wooden stairs located on the defendant’s premises.  The defendant operated a farm and equestrian facility.  At the time of the incident, plaintiff was carrying a bale of hay and seed to a feed trailer.  Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that her injuries resulted from the negligence and carelessness of the defendant.  The defendant filed a counterclaim based on a “Lesson, Horse Rental, and Arena Use Release” document (“Release”) signed by the plaintiff in order to ride horses at the facility.  The defendant then filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff had a duty to defend and indemnify the defendant under the terms of the Release. (more…)

Nice Save – Hockey Spectator Take a Puck in the Head; Team and Arena Not Liable (CT)

May 12, 2015

 

Lukacko v. Connecticut Islanders, LLC (Connecticut)

Plaintiff and his wife were spectators at an American Hockey League (“AHL”) game at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  At some point during the hockey match, a puck left the ice surface, traveled over the tempered glass barrier surrounding the rink, and struck plaintiff, causing a head laceration, scarring and emotional and physical distress.  Plaintiff filed a complaint against the hockey team and the arena operator alleging numerous counts of negligent conduct.

In response. the defendants claimed that the arena had typical protections for fans and patrons of the hockey game, including “plexiglass walls above the dasher boards surrounding the rink and netting placed at either end of the rink, in the most dangerous sections of the Arena in accordance with the approved standards of the [AHL].”  Plaintiff was not sitting at either end of the rink or behind the goals.  The defendants asked the Superior Court to adopt the “limited duty rule” (also referred to as the “baseball rule”), which is different from the general negligence standard.  Under the “limited duty rule,” once the defendant facility “has provided adequately screened seats for all those desiring them, the [facility] owner has fulfilled his duty of care as a matter of law.”  The Court explained that “[t]he limited duty rule holds that the stadium owner/operator is only responsible for screening the spectator seats in the most dangerous section of the field (in baseball, the area behind home plate).”

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Rough Terrain

July 20, 2012

Malaguit v. Ski Sundown, Inc. (Connecticut)
(A skier was rendered a quadriplegic during a fall in the ski area’s “terrain park”; the Court affirmed a general jury verdict in favor of the defendant ski area.)

The plaintiff was 15 years old at the time of the incident.  He attempted to ski over a snow jump in the ski area’s “terrain park” but fell, landing in a way that severely injured his spine.  Plaintiff filed a complaint against the ski area, claiming that it had been negligent in the building and maintenance of the snow jump.  Pursuant to Connecticut’s ski area statute, the defendant argued that the plaintiff had assumed the risk of injury and that the statute was a complete bar to plaintiff’s recovery.  According to the statute, ski areas are not liable for any injuries caused by terrain variations that are the result of “snow grooming.”  The defendant argued that the snow jump had been created as part of a process of snow grooming, such that plaintiff assumed the risks and that his injuries were caused by his own negligence.  The plaintiff countered by claiming that the snow jump was not a hazard inherent in the sport of skiing, unsuccessfully arguing that the jury should not be given instruction relating to the Connecticut skiing statute.  Thereafter, a jury returned a verdict for the defendant, and the plaintiff filed a motion to set it aside.  The motion was denied and the plaintiff appealed.

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Attack on Connecticut’s Public Lands

May 12, 2011

Recreation on Public Land Jeopardized (Connecticut)
(Recent developments in Connecticut case-law appear to reverse past trends and open up public lands to liability for injuries incurred in connection with recreational use by members of the public.)

The Overlawyered blog recently posted an article discussing developments which are opening up public lands to potential liability where protections were once found.  This trend could potentially stifle recreational opportunities for state citizens.

A Challenging Course

June 28, 2007

Roman v. City of Bristol (Connecticut)
(Employee Injured While Using Rented Recreational Challenge Course Owned and Operated by the City; Employee Sued City and City Sued Employer Citing Indemnity Provisions in Rental Agreement; Court Found Issues of Fact Regarding Whether the Employer and the City Were Both Sophisticated Business Entities with Equal Bargaining Power Such That the Indemnity Provisions Should Be Enforced)

An employer signed a rental agreement with the city that included the rental fee and the date and time for use of a recreational challenge course owned by and located in the city.  An employee of the employer was injured while using the course and she brought a personal injury action against both the city and the city’s course instructor who was present at the time of the incident.  The city then filed a third party lawsuit against the employer for breach of contract and indemnification.  The city alleged that the employer breached the rental agreement by (1) not holding them harmless, (2) not providing them with a legal defense, and (3) failing to secure and maintain an adequate and proper liability insurance policy.  The employer filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that it was not obligated to indemnify the city under the contract for the city’s own alleged negligent conduct.  The trial court granted the employer’s motion, and the city appealed. 

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