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Boisson v. Arizona Board of Regents

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

March 10, 2015

ELIZABETH BOISSON, individually and on behalf of all statutory beneficiaries, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
ARIZONA BOARD OF REGENTS, a public entity; STATE OF ARIZONA, a public entity; NANJING AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, L.L.C., an Arizona corporation doing business as, or under the trade name of YANGTZE INTERNATIONAL STUDY ABROAD, Defendants/Appellees

Page 932

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County. No. CV2010-025607. The Honorable Douglas L. Rayes, Judge.

Knapp & Roberts, P.C., Scottsdale, By Craig A. Knapp, Dana R. Roberts, David L. Abney, Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants.

Garrey, Woner, Hoffmaster & Peshek, P.C., Scottsdale, By Shawna M. Woner, Stephanie Kwan, Counsel for Defendants/Appellees Arizona Board of Regents and State of Arizona.

Udall Law Firm, LLP, Tucson, By Peter Akmajian, Janet Linton, Counsel for Defendants/Appellees Nanjing American University, L.L.C., dba Yangtze International Study Abroad.

Judge Samuel A. Thumma delivered the decision of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Margaret H. Downie and Judge Andrew W. Gould joined.

OPINION

Page 933

[236 Ariz. 621] THUMMA, Judge.

[¶1] Elizabeth Boisson appeals from a judgment dismissing a wrongful death negligence claim arising out of the death of her son Morgan Boisson. The judgment was based on the ground that Defendants owed no duty to Morgan when, while studying abroad in China, he traveled to Tibet and died of altitude sickness. Finding no error, this court affirms.

FACTS[1] AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

[¶2] Morgan was an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, which is governed by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR). In the fall of 2009, Morgan and 16 other university students spent the semester studying in China at Nanjing American University (NAU). This study-abroad program, sometimes referred to as Yangtze International Study Abroad (YISA), was a collaborative effort between ABOR and NAU.

[¶3] While in China, the study-abroad program included school-sponsored trips to various cities in China with NAU faculty. At other times, the students organized their own trips. During a student-organized trip, 14 study abroad students -- including Morgan -- flew to Lhasa, Tibet. The students then drove to the Mount Everest base camp a few days later. While at base camp, which is approximately 18,000 feet above sea level, Morgan developed and then died of altitude sickness.

[¶4] As relevant here, Elizabeth filed a complaint against the State of Arizona, ABOR and NAU (collectively Defendants), asserting a wrongful death negligence claim pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) sections 12-611 to -613 (2015).[2] After discovery, motion practice and oral argument, the superior court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment on the ground that Defendants " owed no affirmative duty of care to Morgan while he was a participant on the subject trip to Tibet." After entry of judgment, Elizabeth timely appealed. This court has jurisdiction pursuant to the Arizona Constitution, Article 6, Section 9,

Page 934

[236 Ariz. 622] and A.R.S. § § 12-120.21(A)(1) ...


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