(CN) – After a University of Arizona student died at Mount Everest while studying abroad, his mother does not have a wrongful-death case, an appeals court ruled.
In the fall semester of his senior year at U of A, Morgan Boisson had been studying abroad in China at Nanjing American University.
After flying to Lhasa, Tibet, in October 2009, Morgan and 13 other study-abroad students drove to the base camp at Mount Everest, an area approximately 18,000 feet above sea level.
On Oct. 20, just about a month before his 21st birthday, Morgan died of altitude sickness.
His mother, Elizabeth Boisson, filed a complaint in Maricopa County against Arizona, the state’s Board of Regents, Nanjing American University and their collaborative study-abroad program, Yangtze International Study Abroad.
Last week, a three-judge panel for the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of Elizabeth’s wrongful-death negligence claim, finding no showing that the defendants owed Morgan a duty for his trip to Tibet.
“The trip, details of the trip and the cost of the trip were not part of the study-abroad program or any course curriculum, and no academic credit was awarded for the trip,” Judge Samuel Thumma wrote for the panel.
Boisson, the mother, failed to persuade the court that that the trip to Tibet would not have been possible without the coordination an NAU student liaison.
“Indeed, such a rule would mean an almost unlimited number of individuals and entities could be found to have owed a duty here, including the airline that flew the students to Tibet, the manufacturer of that airplane and the provider of the airplane fuel,” Thumma wrote.
The Arizona Republic reported in December 2009 that a scholarship fund was created in Morgan Boisson’s name for students residing in his home town of Cave Creek.
The article describes Boisson as a 6-foot-6 member of U of A’s cheer squad. He was studying East Asian Studies and Chinese, with a minor in French, and “everyone gave him the nickname ‘Big Bear,'” a fellow cheerleader told the Republic.
Elizabeth Boisson had told the Republic that the family planned to spread the young man’s ashes on Mont Aigoual, in France, a mountain not far from his birthplace in Monpellier.
In a memorial she posted on the website for the ClearCause Foundation, an advocy group created in the memory of a teenager who died while studying abroad, Elizabeth noted that her son had participated in pre-Olympic games while in China, besting students from 30 other participating schools to place first in shot put.
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