ACE, along with 23 higher education and independent schools associations, has submitted a brief to the Connecticut Supreme Court in the so-called Hotchkiss School “tick-bite case,” a study abroad liability suit that is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Last year, the federal appeals court asked Connecticut’s highest court to help it decide the validity of a $41.5 million jury award to the family of Cara Munn, who contracted tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) on a school-sponsored trip to China in 2007. Munn was the “first U.S. traveler” ever to contract TBEV in China, according to a Centers for Disease Control report.
The trial court decided the case by applying Connecticut state law. In referring particular legal and policy questions to the Connecticut Supreme Court for consideration ahead of rendering its decision, the three-judge federal panel noted that the sheer size of the award “might discourage schools and other organizations from offering such trips for fear that they will suffer a crippling lawsuit.”
The federal appeals court asked Connecticut’s highest court to focus on two points: whether the state's public policy requires schools to warn or protect against serious insect-borne diseases when it organizes trips abroad, and whether the size of the award is appropriate.
Once the Connecticut Supreme Court rules on the referred questions, the federal appeals court will issue a decision regarding Hotchkiss’ appeal, taking into consideration the state court’s perspective. That decision is not expected for many months.