Archive for the ‘International’ 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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Scuba Diving School Stays Above Water

July 6, 2008

Booth v. Bowen (U.S. Virgin Islands-UNPUBLISHED)
(Federal Court Enforces Waiver in Favor of Scuba Diving School; Denied Claims of Heirs Suing on Behalf of Novice Scuba Diver Who Died While Completing the School’s Introductory Course.)

This case involved an action brought by the heirs of a deceased scuba diver. The decedent participated in a novice diving course in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The deceased had no diving experience. Before participating, he signed a “Questionnaire” which was titled “Liability Release and Assumption of Risk Agreement.” The school argued that the language of the agreement relieved them from negligence liability. The plaintiff-heirs argued that the waiver should be unenforceable on public policy grounds because the agreement improperly barred the claims of heirs and family member of the deceased. The plaintiffs contested the fact that the agreement signed by the decedent precluded an undetermined class of individuals (heirs and family members) from filing suit.

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