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Brenner v. National Outdoor Leadership Sch.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 19, 2014

Elizabeth Brenner, as Trustee for the Heirs and Next-of-Kin of Thomas Levi Plotkin, Plaintiff,
v.
National Outdoor Leadership School, Defendant

Page 710

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Lori L. Barton, Esq., Paul D. Peterson, Esq. and Harper & Peterson, PLLC, Woodbury, MN, counsel for plaintiff.

Daniel J. Connolly, Esq., Bruce G. Jones, Esq. and Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, Minneapolis, MN, counsel for defendant.

Page 713

ORDER

David S. Doty, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the motion to transfer venue by defendant National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Based on a review of the file, record and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion to transfer to the District of Wyoming.

BACKGROUND

This wrongful death dispute arises out of the September 2011 death of Thomas Plotkin during a NOLS course. NOLS is a Wyoming corporation that organizes remote wilderness expeditions for students. Compl. ¶ ¶ 4, 6. Brenner, as trustee for the heirs and next-of-kin of Plotkin, is Plotkin's mother and is domiciled in Minnesota. Id. ¶ ¶ 1-2.

In 2011, Plotkin enrolled in a NOLS course to be held in India. Id. ¶ 12. On April 30, 2011, Plotkin signed a document (Agreement) entitled " [NOLS] Student Agreement (Including Assumption of Risks and Agreements of Release and Indemnity)." Barton Aff. Ex. G, at 1. The Agreement refers to several other documents and states that Plotkin " ha[s] read and underst[ood] the general information about NOLS and its courses ... includ[ing] NOLS' Admission Policies, the statement titled Risk Management at NOLS, the NOLS Enrollment Packet and other material provided by NOLS describing or related to [his] program." Id. at 2. The Agreement also contained a clause providing that " [a]ny dispute between [Plotkin] ... and NOLS will be governed by the substantive laws ... of the State of Wyoming, and any mediation or suit shall

Page 714

occur or be filed only in the State of Wyoming." Id. at 4. Plotkin further agreed that the terms of the Agreement would " be binding upon [him], [his] heirs, estate, executors and administrators." Id.

On September 3, 2011, Plotkin began a thirty-day hike near the Gori Ganga River in India, accompanied by other students and NOLS staff. Compl. ¶ 22. On September 22, rainfall caused the deterioration of trail conditions. Id. ¶ 38. During the hike, Plotkin fell down a steep incline and is presumed dead. Id. ¶ ¶ 42, 57.

On September 18, 2013, Brenner filed this action in Minnesota state court, alleging a wrongful death claim based on negligence, gross negligence, and willful and wanton negligence. NOLS timely removed, and moves to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the District of ...


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