Panel Revives Lawsuit Over Travel-Study Injury

, New York Law Journal

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A student who injured her knee at an Israeli kibbutz while participating in a pre-college travel-study program has had her personal injury action revived by a Manhattan appellate court.

Although a unanimous panel of the Appellate Term, First Department, acknowledged state courts have rejected the doctrine of in loco parentis when it comes to college students, the court said it was "not prepared to say on the record so far developed that the holdings of those cases are properly analogized to the situation at bar involving injuries allegedly sustained by a participant in a 'gap year,' study abroad program."

Julie Katz, then 19 years old, sued the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which sponsored the 10-month program. She said it offered negligent supervision of her medical care following the accident by refusing to arrange recommended physical therapy.

The synagogue said it owed no duty to Katz and in April 2012, Manhattan Civil Court Judge Frank Nervo granted its summary judgment motion.

The Appellate Term reversed in a decision issued Tuesday, noting program director testimony that participants, while in Jerusalem, could tend to "simple" medical issues themselves while staffers had to accompany them on more serious matters. The director said in remote locations, transportation would typically be arranged. Katz responded she was a "teenager in a foreign country" who was not fluent in Hebrew and unable to arrange physical therapy or afford taxis back and forth for treatment.

The panel said there were "mixed questions of law and fact" on whether the synagogue had a duty to supervise her medical care, given the case's "unusual circumstances."

Justices Richard Lowe, Martin Shulman and Robert Torres decided Katz v. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, 13-241. Michael D'Agostino of Becker & D'Agostino represents Katz. Vincent Pozzuto of Cozen O'Connor represents the synagogue.

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