In cases with tragic facts, the jury is perhaps the chief danger to a defendant. Attorneys defending tort suits routinely argue that courts should dismiss a case on grounds that a tortfeasor does not owe a victim a duty of care. This often takes the form of an argument that fact-specific “limited” duties should be created in order to dismiss a plaintiff’s case. Two Connecticut cases—Munn v. Hotchkiss School, and Horowitz v. YMCA Camp Mohawk, Inc.—are implicated in the broader debate regarding whether limited duty is being used properly. The plaintiffs’ claims specifically concern injuries from tick-borne illness (TBI) suffered by minors in educational environments. But there are broader implications. With the Munn case raising serious questions of state law in the context of an appeal to the Second Circuit—meriting certified questions to the Connecticut Supreme Court—the role of limited duty in Connecticut jurisprudence is ripe for review. Connecticut’s answer as to the proper use of limited duty in the Munn case will likely have effects reaching far beyond these TBI cases. This Note argues that Connecticut and other jurisdictions should embrace a form of limited duty that is perhaps itself well described as “limited.” In order to preserve factual issues for the trier of fact and the function of dispositive motions based on the existence or non-existence of those issues (e.g., summary judgment), the existence of duty should remain an abstract inquiry into the relationship between plaintiff and defendant. Thus, this Note contends that public policy analysis should not play a role in determining whether a legal duty exists unless there is a legal principle that merits restricting the responsibilities that exist given the basic relationship between the parties. In cases where the existence of a legal duty is otherwise clear at this level of generality, courts should not use public policy analysis to qualify legal duty. Since the duty inquiry is an inquiry into law and not facts, this sort of reserved approach is what is judicially proper—in the TBI cases, and for all cases.
Senzer, Michael J., "Tick-Bite Litigation: An Illustration of the Battle over Duty and Breach in Connecticut and the Second Circuit Notes" (2016). Connecticut Law Review. 329.