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Turnbough v. Ladner

Mississippi Supreme Court
754 So.2d 467 (1999)


Facts

Michael Turnbough (plaintiff) enrolled in a class at the Gulfport Yacht Club (the Club), taught by Janet Ladner (defendant), to obtain his open-water certification as a scuba diver. Although Turnbough had previously been certified, he had let the certification expire. Class participants were required to execute a waiver and release of liability in favor of Ladner and the Club that included a provision stating that participants understood that diving with compressed air involved certain inherent risks, including decompression sickness, also called the bends. At the end of the six-week course, the class performed the first of their “check-out dives” required for certification. After completion of the dives Turnbough felt the effects of the bends while driving home. Subsequently, Turnbough was seen by a physician that specialized in scuba-related illnesses. The physician told Turnbough he believed one of the check-out dives performed by him was too long and that there should have been a decompression stop before Turnbough fully surfaced. Turnbough filed suit against Ladner alleging she was negligent in her supervision of the dives and in exposing him to the bends. An expert in scuba diving opined that Ladner negligently planned the depths of the dives as well as failed to make safety stops that resulted in an increased risk that her students could suffer decompression sickness. Ladner filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. The complaint was dismissed and Turnbough appealed. The court of appeals found that the waiver and release executed by Turnbough was a contract of a purely personal nature and did not violate public policy. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

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Holding and Reasoning (McRae, J.)

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