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Brown v. Soh

Supreme Court of Connecticut

May 16, 2006, Argued ; November 14, 2006, Officially Released

SC 17364

Opinion

 [*496]  [**45]   BORDEN, J. The principal issue in this appeal is whether [***2]  an employee's negligence claim is precluded when he or she has signed an exculpatory agreement prospectively releasing the employer and other specified groups from liability for negligent acts that cause injury to the employee. The trial court concluded that the claim is precluded as a matter of law and rendered summary judgment in favor of the defendants. We disagree with that conclusion and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of the trial court.

The plaintiffs, Robert J. Brown and Denise A. Brown, sought damages from the defendants, Diane Soh, David J. Fenn, DaimlerChrysler Corporation, the Skip Barber Racing School, LLC, and the Skip Barber Racing School, Inc. (racing school), 1 for injuries that the plaintiff 2 [***4]  sustained while employed by the racing school. After the trial court, Brunetti, J., granted the racing school's motion for summary judgment on two counts of the  [*497]  operative complaint, the remaining defendants, Soh, Fenn, and DaimlerChrysler Corporation, moved for summary judgment as well. In August, 2004, the trial court, Pickard, J., granted their motions for summary judgment and rendered judgment thereon. The plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court from the judgment [***3]  of the trial court rendered in favor of Soh, Fenn, and DaimlerChrysler Corporation, 3 and we transferred the appeal to this court pursuant to General Statutes § 51-199 (c) and Practice Book § 65-1.

The record reveals the following facts and procedural history. On September 19, 2001, the racing school offered to the public a one day advanced driving class focused on accident avoidance and prevention. Soh was a student in the class, and the plaintiff and Fenn were employed by the racing school as driving instructors. The driving took place in a restricted area and everyone who entered the area, including the plaintiff, was required by the racing school to sign a document entitled "RELEASE AND WAIVER OF LIABILITY,  [***5]  ASSUMPTION OF RISK AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT" (exculpatory agreement). In the exculpatory agreement, the plaintiff acknowledged the dangerous nature of the activities in which he was about to participate, assumed full responsibility for any risk of injury, and covenanted not to seek recovery  [**46]  from those involved. 4 

 [***6]  [*498]   During the final exercise of the day, Soh was driving a Dodge sedan owned by the DaimlerChrysler Corporation. Fenn was in the passenger seat, acting as her instructor. The plaintiff had been assigned to wave a checkered flag during the exercise and was therefore working in the restricted area near the driving course when the car driven by Soh struck him, causing serious injuries.

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280 Conn. 494 *; 909 A.2d 43 **; 2006 Conn. LEXIS 422 ***

ROBERT J. BROWN, ET AL. v. DIANE SOH, ET AL.

Subsequent History: As Corrected December 6, 2006.

Prior History:  [***1]  Action to recover damages for personal injuries allegedly caused by the defendants' negligence, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Litchfield where the court, Frazzini, J., granted the plaintiffs' motion to cite in Skip Barber Racing School, LLC, as a party defendant; thereafter, the court, Brunetti, J., granted the motion for partial summary judgment filed by the defendant Skip Barber Racing School, LLC; subsequently, the court, Pickard, J., granted the motions for summary judgment filed by the named defendant et al. and rendered judgment thereon, from which the named plaintiff appealed; thereafter, the action was withdrawn as against the defendant Skip Barber Racing School, LLC.

Brown v. Sol, 2004 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2430 (Conn. Super. Ct., Aug. 31, 2004)

Disposition: Reversed; further proceedings.

CORE TERMS

exculpatory, bargaining, quotation, exculpation, driving

Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, Burdens of Proof, Movant Persuasion & Proof, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Contracts Law, Defenses, Public Policy Violations, Business & Corporate Compliance, Contracts Law, Contract Conditions & Provisions, Exculpatory Clauses, Types of Contracts, Adhesion Contracts, Torts, Negligence, General Overview, Judgments, Preclusion of Judgments, Law of the Case, Res Judicata