On August 3, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit certified two questions to the Connecticut Supreme Court. DRI member of Conway Stoughton, formerly of Gordon Muir & Foley, LLP, authored an amicus brief in this appeal on behalf of nine organizations that focus on providing outdoor opportunities to youth.

The appeals court certified the following two questions: (1) Does Connecticut public policy support imposing a duty on a school to warn about or protect against the risk of a serious insect-borne disease when it organizes a trip abroad?; (2) If so, does an award of approximately $41.5 million in favor of the plaintiffs, $31.5 million of which are non-economic damages, warrant remittitur? Munn v Hotchkiss School, No. 14-2410 (2d Cir. 2015). The amicus brief focused on the public policy issues as it pertains to the duty owed to children. The Second Circuit’s opinion references the duty arguments presented in the amicus brief. The brief argued that Connecticut’s limitation of liability in the recreational sports context is a clear indication that Connecticut public policy favors placing limits on the legal duties of providers of other recreational and outdoor activities. The amicus brief cited, as did the Second Circuit, Mercier. Greenwich Acad., Inc., No. 13-CV-4 (JCH) 2013 WL 3874511, at *5 (D. Conn. July 25, 2013). This case was not cited by the appellant Hotchkiss School. As noted by the Second Circuit, Mercier involved “a federal judge applying Connecticut law declined to impose a duty on a coach and school after a player was injured during a basketball game. The court reasoned that Connecticut public policy weighs in favor of encouraging ‘vigorous participation in recreational sporting activities’ even if those activities creates safety risks.”

The amicus brief filed by Gordon, Muir and Foley also argued that affirming Munn would place a financial burden on trip providers and other entities that provide educational and recreational opportunities for children in Connecticut. The court stated that “the size of this award makes it likely that it will have repercussions far beyond this case and affect the whole industry of educational trips. For these reasons we leave it to the Supreme Court of Connecticut to determine whether and how remittitur might help shape state public policy on educational trips." A ruling on these issues will likely implicate future cases involving not only schools, but potentially all type of entities that are responsible for children in recreational and educational settings. To learn more about DRI, an international membership organization

To learn more about DRI, an international membership organization of attorneys defending the interests of business and individuals in civil litigation, visit www.dri.org.

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