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Jaffe v. Pallotta Teamworks

August 8, 2003

ROCHELLE JAFFE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF EVE JAFFE, ET AL., PLAINTIFF,
v.
PALLOTTA TEAMWORKS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This lawsuit arises from the death of Eve Jaffe on June 23, 2000, in the Commonwealth of Virginia during her participation in the "Washington D.C. AIDSRide® 5 Presented by Tanqueray" ("AIDSRide"). Eve Jaffe's estate and family, represented by her mother, sue Pallotta TeamWorks, which organized the AIDSRide, and the University of Maryland Medical System Corporation ("UMMS"), which – through its R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center – allegedly failed to provide appropriate medical monitoring and negligently treated Eve Jaffe. Because the parties agree that the amended complaint's wrongful death allegations are barred as to UMMS by Virginia's statute of limitations and the Court finds that all of the allegations are barred as to both defendants by a waiver of liability for negligence, the amended complaint will be dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND

The AIDSRide was organized as a fundraiser for AIDS research and education. The four-day bicycle pledge ride (covering 330 miles) began on June 22, 2000, in Raleigh, North Carolina, and ended on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on June 25, 2000. It involved more than 1,600 participants and 120 volunteers. AIDSRide 2000 marked the fifth year of the event and raised close to $5 million for local AIDS charities.

Eve Jaffe participated in portions of the AIDSRide in North Carolina and Virginia. On the afternoon of June 22, 2000, she approached a medical aid station complaining of dizziness and nausea. Volunteers manning the station administered intravenous fluids, but Eve Jaffe's condition did not improve and she began vomiting. Additional intravenous fluids were administered, after which her blood pressure dropped and she collapsed. She was transported by ambulance to the hospital where, on June 23, 2000, she died without regaining consciousness. The amended complaint alleges that Eve Jaffe suffered a full cardiopulmonary arrest resulting in her death; UMMS states that the diagnosis in the medical records is "subarachnoid hemorrhage," or internal bleeding in her brain. Am. Compl. ¶ 14; Def. UMMS Mot. to Dismiss or, in the Alt., for Summ. J. ("UMMS Mot.") at 2.

Rochelle Jaffe, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Eve Jaffe, initiated this lawsuit against Pallotta TeamWorks on May 30, 2002. She filed an amended complaint, adding UMMS as a defendant, on February 27, 2003. The amended complaint contains two counts. Count one is labeled a "survival action" and alleges that Pallotta TeamWorks and UMMS negligently organized, trained, and equipped the medical aid stations and negligently diagnosed, monitored, treated, and cared for Eve Jaffe. Count two is labeled "wrongful death" and seeks compensation for Eve Jaffe's family members for the financial loss, sorrow, and mental anguish associated with her death.

Both defendants argue that the amended complaint should be dismissed because it is untimely under the applicable statutes of limitations – although they do not agree which jurisdiction's statutes of limitations apply – and because Eve Jaffe allegedly waived her right to sue prior to participating in the AIDSRide.

Titled "WAIVER OF NEGLIGENCE & COMPLETE RELEASE OF LIABILITY[,]" with the additional notation "MEDICAL WAIVER" in the upper, right-hand corner of the document, the waiver form contained the following provisions:

I wish to participate in Washington D.C. AIDSRide 5.... I am voluntarily participating in this event with knowledge of the dangers involved and I agree to accept any and all risks of injury or death. In consideration for being permitted to participate in the Washington, D.C. AIDSRide 5..., I agree to assume all risks and to release and hold harmless... Pallotta TeamWorks, a California Corporation, Schieffelin & Somerset, Washington D.C. AIDSRide 5... Medical Director, R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center [at UMMS] or any other Ride Medical Team member... (and all of their respective officers, directors, agents, employees and members) who, through negligence, carelessness or any other cause, might otherwise be liable to me.

I intend by this Waiver and Release to release, in advance, and to waive my rights and discharge all of the persons and entities mentioned above from any and all claims for damages for death, personal injury or property damage which I have or which may hereafter accrue to me, as a result of my participation in Washington D.C. AIDSRide... even though that liability may arise from negligence or carelessness on the part of the persons or entities being released. I understand and agree that this Waiver and Release is binding on my heirs, assigns and legal representatives.

I am physically capable of participating in Washington D.C. AIDS-Ride 5... and my medical care provider has approved my participation.... I have carefully read this Waiver and Release and fully understand its contents. I certify that I am at least 17 years of age at time of registration. I am aware that this is a RELEASE OF LIABILITY and a contract between me and the persons and entities mentioned above and all of their respective officers, directors, employees, agents and representatives and I sign it of my own free will.

Directly above Eve Jaffe's signature, dated June 2, 2000, in bold and all capitals, was the following statement on the form:

THIS IS AN IMPORTANT LEGAL DOCUMENT. READ IT CAREFULLY BEFORE SIGNING BELOW.

Subject matter jurisdiction for this lawsuit is based on diversity of citizenship under ...


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