June 6, 2008
JANICE SILVA AND PAULO SILVA, PLAINTIFFS,
MARTHA A. MERENDA AND MARYMELIS MERENDA, DEFENDANTS.
JACQUELINE M. GUFROVICH, ROBERT GUFROVICH AND EILEEN M. GUFROVICH, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
MARYMELIS MERENDA, MARTHA MERENDA, PAULO C. SILVA, YANKEE CLIPPER FREIGHT SYSTEMS, SIGMA SIGMA SIGMA, INC., A VIRGINIA CORP., SIGMA 3 SORORITY, TRI SIGMA, LOCAL CHAPTER ZETA KAPPA, KRISTINA ANTUS, JULIE BETZ, KAMILA BIERNAT, KATIE BRUNETTI, LINDSEY BUERKLE, KRISTINA CAMACHO, JEA DAVIS, KELLY DAY, AYMARA DEARMAS, NIKKI GASPARRO, CHRISTINE GIUSTINO, KARLEY HAGOPIAN, LAUREN HELWIG, TARA JOHNSON, APRIL KOSIOR, RACHEL LAANNEN, ERICA LINDSEY, JILL MCCLEAN, AMY MAGGIO, LAUREN PARISI, KRISSY PIROTTI, JEN PORPORINO, TANA QUIGLEY, GENA RUFRANO, TRACY SCHOLL, TINA SHARO, VANESSA SKINNER, DANA SZCZESNY, LISA VENEZIANO, CYNDY WEBSTER,BREANNE WOOLDRIDGE, SIGMA SIGMA SIGMA NATIONAL ORGANIZATION, SIGMA SIGMA SIGMA EXECUTIVE COUNCIL AND NATIONAL OFFICERS, NATIONAL PANHELLENIC CONFERENCE, INC., STATE OF NEW JERSEY, MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY, DEFENDANTS, AND SHARON BABO, JANINE DARATA, EILEEN KRESKY, MELISSA MEEHAN, AND ANNA ZIOBRO, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.*FN1
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. L-793-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued: May 13, 2008
Before Judges Cuff, Simonelli and King.
Plaintiff Jacqueline Gufrovich, a new member of a sorority, was seriously injured in an accident while a passenger in an automobile operated by one of her sorority sisters. Plaintiff, the driver, and five other new members, participated in a sorority function known as a quest. After completing the activity, but prior to their return to campus, they decided to get something to eat at a fast food restaurant. The accident occurred as the driver made a left turn into the parking lot of the restaurant.
Respondents are five sorority sisters, some of whom were officers of the sorority.*fn2 The issue on appeal is whether defendants owed a duty of care to plaintiff and whether her injuries were a foreseeable result of the sorority activity. Judge Schott granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. In her October 23, 2006 oral opinion, Judge Schott held that no duty of care arose because there was no special relationship among the young women. Defendants were all equals, that is, young women in college. She held that the law did not impose any duty on one of them to protect the other and that the injury was not foreseeable. The judge held that a duty would arise if defendants had actively encouraged plaintiff to participate in a dangerous activity, but neither the quest nor the decision to obtain food at a fast food restaurant could be considered a dangerous activity. In addition, at the time the accident occurred, the young women had completed the activities that comprised the quest. Judge Schott recognized that the legislature has prohibited hazing, N.J.S.A. 18A:3-24 and -25 and N.J.S.A. 2C:40-3, but the activity here could not be considered hazing, and public policy did not require individual members in the circumstances of this case to counsel or advise other friends not to participate in the particular quest on that evening.
We agree and affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Schott in her oral opinion.