Archive for the ‘Demurrer/Motion to Dismiss’ Category

Speed Wobble – Discovery Regarding Failure to Warn Allowed in Longboarding Death Case (VT)

November 5, 2015

Cernansky v. Lefebvre (Vermont)
(trial court disposition)

A college student was fatally injured while riding a longboard style of skateboard.  His estate brought a lawsuit against the roommate who lent him the board and the skateboard shop that sponsored the roommate as a longboard rider.  The complaint alleged wrongful death and negligent failure to warn the decedent about the dangers associated with the activity (the roommate did not provide the decedent with any safety instructions prior to taking the decedent longboarding).  The roommate filed a motion to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim, and the skateboard shop filed a motion to dismiss the action against it based on a lack of personal jurisdiction.

The United States District Court for the District of Vermont denied both motions.  First, the Court held that the estate’s complaint did state a claim against the roommate under Vermont law for negligent failure to warn.  The Court explained:

“. . . the Complaint alleges [the roommate] should have foreseen the potential for serious injury based upon his knowledge of long boarding. More specifically, [the roommate] allegedly should have foreseen that sending [the decedent], a first-time longboarder, down a hill without a helmet or instruction presented a risk of harm giving rise to a legal duty. Plaintiff claims that [the roommate] breached that duty.  ¶  The fact that the longboard was loaned to [the decedent] does not alter the negligence analysis. In the comparable context of negligent entrustment, the ‘theory requires a showing that the entruster knew or should have known some reason why entrusting the item to another was foolish or negligent.'”

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Beyond Control – Woman Injured on Costa Rican Bicycle Tour; Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss (CO)

October 15, 2015

Steinfeld v. EmPG International, LLC (Colorado)
(trial court disposition)

A woman fell off her bicycle during a bicycle your vacation in Costa Rica.  She and her husband filed a lawsuit against the bicycle tour company.  The lawsuit was filed in Pennsylvania where the plaintiffs resided, but the Pennsylvania District Court held that is lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant tour company that was based in Colorado.  The defendant filed a motion to dismiss based in large part on the assumption of risk and waiver of liability forms (“Releases”) signed by the plaintiffs prior to their participation in the tour.  However, the Colorado District Court applied Colorado law (as having the “most significant relationship” to claims), denied the motion, and allowed the case to proceed to discovery, finding that the Releases did not bar all of the plaintiffs claims.  The Court explained:

“A waiver implicitly or explicitly is grounded on warranties of fitness, and assumption of risk can only take place when the risk is inherent and clearly foreseeable.  The Complaint in this case abounds with allegations of misrepresentations and abandonment of good faith attempts to fulfill the obligations of the contract.”

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Tragedy at the Beach – State Not Liable for Youth Killed by Collapsed Sand (CA)

July 27, 2015

Buchanan v. California Department of Parks and Recreation (California)
(unpublished opinion)

A seventeen year old boy and his brother participated in a church youth group outing to Sunset State Beach in California.  During the outing, the boy and another member of the church group “created an unnatural condition that was not common to nature and would not naturally occur in that location, in that they were engaged in digging large holes in the sand in a picnic area being used by the church group, which was located within the park boundaries, separated from the beach by sand dunes, but within sight of a nearby elevated life guard station.”  The sand collapsed, burying and killing the boy.  A lawsuit was filed by the boy’s family, with the amended complaint alleging two causes of action.  First, the plaintiffs alleged that the California Department of Parks and Recreation (“DPR”) employees observed (or should have observed) the digging activities and they had a duty to warn the boy and the group of the known risks.  Second, the boy’s brother alleged a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress as a bystander that witnessed the incident.

The DPR filed a demurrer to the amended complaint, asserting that the complaint failed to show that it owed a duty to the plaintiff and that statutory government immunity applied.  The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend based on the Hazardous Recreational Activity immunity found in Government Code Section 831.7, and it entered a judgment of dismissal in favor of the defendant.  Plaintiffs appealed. (more…)

Reality Bites – Defamation and Business Tort Claims of Reality Show Participant Dismissed (NY)

June 29, 2015

Klapper v. Gaziano (New York)

In 2011, the plaintiff agreed to participate in the “Mob Wives” reality television show.  Prior to his participation, he signed an “Appearance Release” in which he agreed to not sue the production company and to release the production company and its affiliates and representatives from all liability.  After the show, plaintiff filed an action against several individual and corporate defendants, alleging defamation and tortious interference with existing contracts and prospective business relationships.  The defendant corporate entities moved to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a cause of action and for an award of attorney’s fees.  The trial court granted the motion, and plaintiff appealed. (more…)

The Art of Recreation – University Not Permitted to Assert Recreational Use Statute Protection Against Spectator Claim (TX)

April 21, 2015

University of Texas at Arlington v. Sandra Williams (Texas)

The plaintiff and her husband attended their daughter’s soccer game played at the football stadium at the University of Texas at Arlington.  She leaned against a gate that separated the stands from the playing field, and the gate unexpectedly opened, causing her to fall five feel to the artificial turf below.  Plaintiff injured a rib and her left arm and sued the University for premises liability, alleging negligence and gross negligence.  As part of its responsive pleadings, the University filed a motion to dismiss claiming (among other things) liability protection under the Texas recreational use statute.

Texas’ recreational use statute (like many similar statutes in other jurisdictions) protects landowners who open property for recreational purposes, limiting their liability to the recreational user.  In such cases, the burden of proof is elevated, requiring either gross negligence or an intent to injure.  Ultimately, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed the decision of both the trial court and the court of appeals and determined that a spectator at a competitive sports event is not “recreation” under the statute such that the liability protection did not apply.

You’re Fired

June 4, 2009

Christakis v. Mark Burnett Productions (California)
(Court dismisses the action of a disgruntled reality show applicant on procedural grounds, and finds that the applicant’s waiver and release was valid and binding to preclude liability.)

The plaintiff applied to be a participant on “The Apprentice,” a popular reality game show in which individuals compete against each other to prove their business skills and earn a coveted employment position with Donald Trump. Plaintiff was one of the fifty (50) finalists vying to make the show, but was ultimately not one of the final sixteen (16) selections. He thereafter filed a lawsuit in federal court in California, claiming that the production company engaged in “systematic actions” to disqualify him from the show, and that the production company made slanderous and defamatory statements about him. His complaint alleged (1) defamation; (2) tortuous interference with prospective economic advantage; and (3) breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

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ATV Co-Participant Collision Case Stays On Course

July 6, 2008

Allred v. Broekhuis (Michigan-UNPUBLISHED)
(Court Denies Co-Participant’s Demurrer to Claim by Injure Co-Participant Based on the “Recreational Activities Doctrine.”)

In 2005, the plaintiff was riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) eastward on a path designated for use by off-road vehicles. Simultaneously, the defendant was riding an ATV westward on the same course. When passing each other, defendant’s ATV crossed onto the eastbound side of the course and struck the plaintiff. Defendant moved for a judgment on the pleadings based on Michigan’s “recreational activities doctrine” (RAD). Under the RAD, co-participants in recreational activities owe a minimum standard of care not to act recklessly towards other participants. However, plaintiff argued that the RAD did not apply under the circumstances, and that Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Code should control.

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