Archive for the ‘Vicarious Liability’ Category

Scuba Tragedy – Diver Drowns; Releases Enforceability to Protect Diver Association from Ordinary Negligence (HI)

September 3, 2015

Hambrock v. Smith (Hawaii)
(trial court disposition)

Plaintiff, her husband, and their children went on a recreational scuba diving excursion that departed from Hawaii.  During the excursion, plaintiff’s husband died by drowning.  Plaintiff brought a lawsuit against numerous defendants, including (1) the dive guide on the scuba excursion (“Smith”), (2) the co-captain of the dive vessel (“McCrea”), (3) a dive training organization and an association for diving instructors and dive centers in which both the Smith and McCrea were members (“PADI”), and (4) the corporate entity out of which the Smith and McCrea ran their scuba excursions (“HSS”).  The lawsuit alleged negligence (all defendants), gross negligence (all defendants), and vicarious liability on theories of apparent agency, agency by estoppel, and maritime joint venture (against PADI).

PADI filed a motion seeking summary judgment as to both the negligence claims and the vicarious liability claims against it (i.e., all claims except gross negligence) based on the liability releases signed by the plaintiff and her family prior to the scuba diving activities.  In addition to opposing PADI’s motion, the plaintiff also filed a motion for partial summary judgment of her own, challenging the enforceability of the releases.  In addressing the enforceability of the releases, the U.S. District Court for Hawaii reviewed both admiralty law and Hawaii state law.

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Big Bag of Beads – New Orleans Krewe Not Liable for Injury to Parade Attendee (LA)

May 18, 2015

Citron v. Gentilly Carnival Club Inc. (Louisiana)

The plaintiff was a long time member the defendant Endymion Krewe, a carnival organization that hosted parades and events in New Orleans.  Her and her husband attended a parade and extravaganza event hosted by Endymion.  When the parade was making its loop through the Superdome, plaintiff was hit in the head by a bag of beads.  She received first aid treatment on site, and was then transported to a local hospital.

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the Endymion Krewe, alleging that it was liable both in its capacity as a organization and vicariously for its krewe member’s actions.  Plaintiff alleged that her injuries were caused by the “deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence” of the defendant, and that the defendant “willfully and knowingly permit its members to throw full bags of beads overhand in a space where people are seated, eating and enjoying musical entertainment.”  Plaintiff also asserted that because the defendant required its float “riders to be masked making identification of the individual tortfeasor impossible,” the defendant “must be liable for the conduct of its members.”

Defendant argued that each member of the Endymion Krewe received two tickets to enter into the subject extravaganza, and the tickets had a limitation of liability and assumption of risk printed on the back.  Defendant also asserted the affirmative defenses of comparative fault on the part of plaintiff (or third parties) and immunity for liability under the Mardi Gras immunity statute (La. R.S. 9:2796).  The statute, which was first enacted in 1979 to help control rising insurance costs for parading organizations, provides broad immunity for krewes that sponsor parades, and it provides that anyone who attends such a parade “assumes the risk of being struck by any missile whatsoever which has been traditionally thrown, tossed or hurled by members.”  The krewe bears the initial burden of providing evidence to establish its right to immunity under the statute.  Once established, the burden then shifts to the claimant to establish that the krewe engaged in gross negligence (an exception to the immunity).

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Can’t Catch a “Brake” – Woman Injured on Foreign Bicycle Tour Forced to Litigate Away from Home (PA)

April 20, 2015

Steinfeld v. EMPG International (Pennsylvania)

The Pennsylvania plaintiffs were injured during a trip to Costa Rica.  Prior to leaving for Costa Rica, the plaintiffs visited the website of defendant EMPG International, LLC (a Colorado limited liability company) and consummated an online transaction to rent bicycles and sign up for a bicycle tour while in Costa Rica.  The bicycle equipment was allegedly not in the condition originally promised by the defendant, and one of the plaintiffs was injured during the tour due to faulty brakes on the bicycle.  The plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging negligence, negligent hiring and retention, vicarious liability, joint enterprise, agency, breach of contract, violation of the Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Law, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and loss of consortium.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the action based on a lack of personal jurisdiction and a failure to state a claim under which relief could be granted.  Following a pretrial conference, the Court entered an order permitting the parties to conduct discovery regarding jurisdiction, and the court required the parties to submit a joint stipulation of facts with respect to jurisdiction so that it could rule on the defendant’s motion to dismiss.  After reviewing the evidence and stipulated facts, the Court found that the “plaintiffs’ cause of action did not arise out of or relate to the company’s contacts with Pennsylvania.”  However, because the defendant was subject to general personal jurisdiction in Colorado, the Court transferred the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

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