Family of slain girl would waive damages to learn more about what happened

Lawsuits are not money a lot of the time; they are about emotions, finding out why.

This is outside the area of Outdoor Recreation; however it has value to all of us. The family of a girl killed by a gunman in school has offered to waive damages if they can learn more about what happened.

It is a scary, chilling terrible story, but what is important is why this offer. They just want to know why and to try and make sure it does not happen again.

See Father of Claire Davis to district: Provide information, avoid lawsuit

More articles about this issue:

It’s Not Money                                          

Why do people sue? Not for the money.       

Serious Disconnect: Why people sue.            

Her life is permanently changed, but she really wants an apology

Money is important in some lawsuits, but the emotions that starts a lawsuit.

A Church wants to apologize and the insurance company for the church panics. What else would you expect a church to do?                

Great article on why some corporate apologies fall short and they are not sincere                                              

Keep customers and turn possible plaintiffs into PR teams for you

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When is a case settled? When all parties (and maybe their attorneys) agree it is settled

Skier sued ski resort for injuries received skiing into bald spot. Skier argued they had agreed on a settlement before trial, which only became an issue after the plaintiff lost at trial.

Strawbridge, Jr. v. Sugar Mountain Resort, Incorporated, et al., 152 Fed. Appx. 286; 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 23459

State: North Carolina, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Plaintiff: Vincent F. Strawbridge, Jr.; Rebecca S. Strawbridge

Defendant: Sugar Mountain Resort, Incorporated; B. Dale Stancil, individually; The Sugar Mountain Irrevocable Trust; The B. Dale Stancil Irrevocable Trust,

Plaintiff Claims: negligence, loss of consortium and requested compensatory and punitive damages

Defendant Defenses: not stated

Holding: for the defendant

Year: 2005

This case is difficult to understand the facts of what happened and what the claims or defenses are. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals was succinct in its opinion and reasoning for its opinion.

The plaintiff was skiing at the defendant Sugar Mountain Resort when he skied over a ledge into a bar spot where he fell. The plaintiff’s (husband and wife) sued for $8 million. They sued the ski area, and they sued the owner of the ski area because the ski area only had $1 million in liability insurance.

At one point before trial and before and after the magistrates ruling the parties were close to a settlement agreement. The settlement the defendant had offered was $450,000 and the plaintiff had counter offered $1 million. The plaintiff was trying to avoid the subrogation claims of his insurance companies, which amounted to $400,000. So one of the issues negotiated was how the money was to be paid, as damages or as lost future income. Damages would be subject to subrogation claims.

However, no agreement was reached; no settlement was signed, and no money exchanged hands between the parties. The magistrate held a hearing on the issue and held that no settlement had occurred because there had not been an agreement to the material terms of the agreement. Both parties to a contract must understand and agree to the major terms of a contract for a contract to be valid, and a settlement agreement is a contract.

The magistrate ruled that the defendant should win its motion for summary judgement. The federal district court ruled that only the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages should be dismissed, and the rest should go to trial.

A trial occurred which the defendant won. The plaintiff appealed whether or not a settlement had occurred and issues pertaining to jury selection. The defendant appealed the issue of why assumption of the risks was not allowed as a defense.

Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.

The majority of the agreement looks at the issues on how the jury was selected and is not important here. The court also said that evidence of rocks in the bare spot was not admitted. However, the court found that since the plaintiff did not mention rocks in his testimony, only a bare spot, then the denial of the admittance of the evidence of rocks was correct.

The next issue was whether there was a settlement between the parties. The district court had also held a hearing on the issue of whether the parties had settlement and held that there was no meeting of the minds.

The final issue the court reviewed was the settlement agreement, which the appellate court agreed with the lower court and ruled there was no meeting of the minds. The way the money was to be paid was a material factor in the agreement which was not agreed upon by the parties so the parties did not have a contract.

So Now What?

To sue the owner of the ski area you would have to breach the corporate veil. That means you would have to find a reason to prove the corporation was a sham. Normally, that is something like using the corporation personally, not maintaining corporate records or not running the corporation properly. The most-used way to pierce the corporate veil is to prove a corporation was used for fraudulent purposes. One way to pierce the corporate veil that is rarely, if ever used, is because the corporation is underfunded.

Here it is not explained what theory the plaintiff was relying upon to sue the owner individually. However, the fact that a large corporation only had $1 million in liability insurance could fall both as running a corporation without enough money or running it improperly. More than anything, it is just stupid.  

Until any agreement is finalized, proving a settlement with some way to prove the terms, and the agreement to the terms, is difficult. Once you agree, do not relax until all parties and the parties’ attorneys have signed the settlement agreement, and the judge has dismissed the case.

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For You Colorado Locals: Down River is having its Spring Sale April 10-12


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Support Environmental Education and call your Represenative to get their support.

Congressional FY 2016 Appropriations Support Letters

for Environmental Education

Action Needed Now: First Deadline Thurs., March 18th

Details at

As with the excellent ongoing efforts to gather cosponsors for the No Child Left Inside Act (NCLI), outreach to ask our legislators to sign letters of support for environmental education appropriations holds great opportunities this year, and some big challenges, and the deadlines for various funding items are all before the end of March.

Congressional appropriations committees and subcommittees will be considering the FY 2016 budget shortly, so now is the time for all of us to advocate for the environmental education programs we know are critical to our communities and the country. The primary way our voices are heard by decision-makers in Congress is via a set of letters we ask our legislators to endorse that are addressed to the appropriations committees. We all need to ask our Senators and House members to sign these letter by the mid- to late-March deadlines.

The materials you will need – detailed instructions for you, the appropriations letters for the legislators’ endorsement, background briefings and instructions for them, and an update on NCLI – can be downloaded from We have not gotten all of the materials from the Legislature yet, so do check back on Monday and Tuesday, and we’ll email you when we post more… but don’t wait to get started!

And it’s very important that we advocate for our cause with all legislators, even those who we know will not sign these letters. Reasons include: they are in the appropriations leadership and have policies not to sign any of these letters; they don’t want to go on record supporting these items; or they have a less than positive view of environmental education… but they none-the-less really value the good work your local EE institutions and schools do. Engaging these non-signing lawmakers, to make sure that they at least understand what environmental education looks like in their community is as important as getting the needed signatures.

This is also a great time to ask for No Child Left Inside legislation cosponsorship. NCLI and the environmental education appropriations complement each other with the range of programs and audiences.

Thank you in advance for helping to secure the future of environmental education and please pass this on to your colleagues today!

It’s a balance, healthy kids versus safe kids, health adults versus safe adults, polluted air versus clean air or more importantly, personal choice versus you telling me what to do.

Study from Sweden looks at the effects of cycling after a 2005 law requiring children to wear helmets while riding bikes.

This article came from a study by the Swedish Association of Transportation Planners. The article, What happens when you mandate helmet-wearing among young Swedish cyclists? is based on the study.

These are quotes from the article. Emphasize in bold is mine.

Mandatory helmet laws have been controversial in that they seem to have a limited effect on the number of head injuries, if at all, but instead are correlated with a decrease in cycling numbers.

Graph 1 shows the number of head injuries as a share of injuries to all parts of the body. The downward sloping lines indicate that head injuries are falling faster than other injuries.



As we can see there does not seem to be a difference between the trends of the different modes, suggesting that if there is any fall in the share of head injuries it is likely to be an effect of something that also applies to other or all road users.

However there does seem to be another effect of helmet laws, namely a decline in cycling among school children. In 1983 57% of children aged 7-9 had permission from their parents to bike to school without adult companion, and for the age group 10-12, 94% had such permission. By the year 2007 this had decreased to 25% and 79% respectively. Bearing in mind, the helmet law was introduced in 2005, we can’t be sure of a correlation, because the data consists of surveys from 1983 and then 2007. But we do also have data recording that the share of school journeys by bicycle fell from 33% in 2006 one year after the legislation to 29% in year 2012. The evidence does suggest that the effect of the helmet law primarily is that fewer children bike to school.


So the data does show a decline in cycling, but without annual surveys it’s hard to be sure of a correlation. However, a Danish report made the same link between declining cycling to school and helmet promotion and safety/scare campaigns. They determined that half the decline in cycling was caused by these campaigns, and half was caused by other factors such as more car traffic and longer distances to school.

From my perspective, laws telling me how to live don’t work, and this study shows that. Whether I wear a helmet is more personal issue that I should be allowed to decide.

More importantly, cycling increases the cyclist’s health, decreases air pollution and general promotes health. That is a greater benefit to all of us then the individual benefit of forcing someone to do something they may or may not want to do.

See: What happens when you mandate helmet-wearing among young Swedish cyclists?

Other Articles about this subject:

Bike Share programs flourish when helmets are not required              

Study shows that head injuries are on the rise on the slopes even though more people are wearing helmets                                                                                                            

Law requires helmets, injuries down fatalities up?                                 

Great editorial questioning why we need laws to “protect” us from ourselves.

Survey of UK physicians shows them against mandatory bicycle helmet laws.

Recent UK poll shows that 10% of cyclists would quite biking if there was a compulsory helmet law.  





What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Colorado Avalanche Information Center Kow Before You Go campaign kicks off

The 2014/2015 season has been very interesting so far. We have had some great powder days as well as weeks of high pressure and no new snow. However, our snowpack is hovering around average and there is plenty of skiing, riding, and snowmobiling to come!

Today we are launching our 6-week Know Before You Go campaign! Donate now. This is our annual fundraising drive that allows us to be creative and expand the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s operations. The money raised during this campaign will go toward the following goals.

1. Create and launch Know Before You Go Colorado. This education initiative will be modeled after the Utah Avalanche Center’s model but will be focused on Colorado’s snowpack and avalanche problems.

2. Improve the CAIC’s backcountry forecast program. More forecasting staff means more people that are part of a statewide avalanche safety effort. More forecasters will mean more local field data, which in turn will create more accurate, and timely avalanche forecasts for you, the backcountry user.

3. The expanded resources also mean expansion of our IT infrastructure. Last season we asked you to invest in the development of a mobile app. You responded and we launched V1 in January. We are excited to continually develop the capabilities our website as well as of the app and we need your help to do that.

You want your forecast center, the CAIC, to be the best. Donate today and help us grow and give you the best center in the United States. Once again, I feel so strongly about bringing Know Before You Go to Colorado that I will kick off the campaign with my own $200 donation.

Starting today and for the next 6 weeks the Friends of CAIC will be offering prizes, challenges, and incentives, to anyone who donates $25 or more. Click here for more information or to DONATE NOW!

We will be accepting donations in the following ways:

Donate on Crowdrise:

(Remember you don’t have to pay the “Optional Processing Fee”. Click on the text and select 0%.)

Mail us a check: PO BOX 140817 Denver, CO 80214

Donate ONLINE on our website:

Hand us cash!

We are looking forward to your support over the next 6 weeks!


Aaron Carlson
Executive Director
Friends of CAIC

Ethan Greene
Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Federal Court in Idaho holds camp not liable for assault on third party by runaway minors.

The Court did find that the camp was still in the custody and control of the minors during the assault which occurred three days after the youth had run away from the camp.

Gadman v. Martin, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83883

State: Idaho, United States District Court for the District of Idaho

Plaintiff: Vera Gadman

Defendant: Joseph Martin; Marshall Dittrich; Penelope James; and Phoenix Mountain Collaborative, LLC.

Plaintiff Claims: Negligence

Defendant Defenses: No duty

Year: 2014

Holding: for the defendant

This case is about the escape of two boys from a summer program for “troubled” youth. These programs have achieved fame and notoriety based on various issues of successes and failures, as well as abuse. However, this legal issue is important to anyone who is taking care of youth at a camp… In this one two kids at the camp ran away and then assaulted a third party. The person the runaway kids assaulted then sued the camp for her injuries.

The defendant camp was operated in Montana. During one part of the session, the youth were rafting the Clark Fork River. The Clark Fork flows from Montana to Idaho. One night during the river trip the campers were on property owned by the defendant camp. The youth ran away.

Neither of the youth who ran away from the camp had a history of violence. They seemed to be enrolled in the program because of drug use and generally being really stupid kids. Both youth has been on a run-away watch a system developed by the camp and had their journals and shoes removed. However, their shoes were returned to them for the rafting trip.

The school had a “Run Watch Policy” which the court pointed out, quoted from and found the school had not followed. “Explorations will take all reasonable precautions pertinent to each individual student so as to reduce the possibility of their escape from our custody.”

The defendant camp filed a motion for summary judgment, and this decision is based on that motion.

Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.

The defense was based on two theories.

1) they owed no duty to Ms. Gadman [plaintiff] and

2) the actions of Mr. Dittrich and Mr. Martin (youth runaways) were not foreseeable [to cause injury to the plaintiff] to either Explorations or Ms. James [defendants].

The determination under Idaho law as to whether the defendants owed a duty of care to the plaintiff’s when they are in charge of youth “who are dangerous or who have dangerous propensities“ is a two-part test.

The first part requires a determination of whether the supervising body actually has control over the individual in question, and then secondly, if so, a determination must be made whether the harm caused by the individual was foreseeable.

The court then looked at the first part of the test.

One who takes charge of a third person whom he knows or should know to be likely to cause bodily harm to others if not controlled is under a duty to exercise reasonable care to control the third person to prevent him from doing such harm.

The first part of the test is whether or not the supervising authority has actual control over the youth. Here the youth were not allowed to leave the camp without the camps or the youth’s parent’s permissions. Even though the youth had voluntarily, and without permission, left the campsite and been away from the camp for two days at the time of the attack, the court held the camp was still in control, for the purposes of the test, of the youth.

Ordinarily, there is no affirmative duty to assist or protect someone unless special circumstances exist. The analysis is not what is the relationship between the affected third party and the youth in this case, but the relationship between the youth and the camp. “Thus, the duty alleged in this case would have to arise from a supervisory relationship where Ms. James/Explorations exercised some level of control over Mr. Martin and Mr. Dittrich.”

The fact the youth ran away was not valid excuse or abrogation of control by the camp.

Explorations was responsible for the care and custody of the youth participants in its programs. The minor participants could not leave the program without their parents’ permission. When asked if the participants of the outdoor program were “free to leave,” Ms. James stated in her deposition that participants who were minor could only leave if they had their parents’ permission, otherwise they were not free to leave. Ms. James went on to state that the steps taken to assure participants do not leave are that “care is provided, oversight and care, with our instructor team the entire time the students are there.”

Most of this analysis was based on the camps Run Watch Policy and Run Watch Kit for leaders. Because the camp knew the kids would run away and prepared for it, they knew it was possible and consequently, the court felt they did not give up control over a kid when the kid did run. “The Court finds upon these undisputed facts that Mr. Martin and Mr. Dittrich were in the custody and control of Explorations at the time of the attack.”

The next issue was the foreseeability question. In this case, the question was not whether it was foreseeable that the kids would run away, but whether it was foreseeable, the kids would assault a third party.

Foreseeability, ‘contemplates more than the mere possibility of aggressive tendencies…. The concept of foreseeability is much more narrowly drawn in this circumstance, … i.e. violence, particularly of a sexual nature, toward members of the public … must be manifest or ostensible, and highly likely to occur.

The plaintiff argued the violent acts of the defendant were foreseeable because of the youth’s drug use and prior attendance at treatment facilities. However, the court did not agree with this.

Although the boys had struggled in various aspects of their lives before attending Explorations, there is nothing in their histories that was known to Explorations that made their actions on July 31, 2011 [date of the attack] foreseeable.

The theft of drugs by one participant who had run away in the past, nor the fact that the kids had been planning to run away did not change the court’s opinion of this. The planning though, was only discovered the history of the youth, after the youth had been caught. Both arguments by the plaintiffs were too speculative according to the court.

The court held therefore, that the defendant camp was not liable.

So Now What?

Although the defendant won this case, it was a close one. All camps should read this with the understanding that a minor that has been delivered to them by their parents are in their custody and control until they are delivered back to their parents.

Whether or not this can be moderated by contract, I’m not sure.

This case would have gone the other way if the youth had a history of violence. The defendant notified the boy’s parents and law enforcement within 90 minutes of the discovery the boys were missing. Even calling law enforcement did not change the issue of control.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Copyright 2015 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law


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By Recreation Law              James H. Moss

#AdventureTourism, #AdventureTravelLaw, #AdventureTravelLawyer, #AttorneyatLaw, #Backpacking, #BicyclingLaw, #Camps, #ChallengeCourse, #ChallengeCourseLaw, #ChallengeCourseLawyer, #CyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #FitnessLawyer, #Hiking, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation, #IceClimbing, #JamesHMoss, #JimMoss, #Law, #Mountaineering, #Negligence, #OutdoorLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #OutsideLaw, #OutsideLawyer, #RecLaw, #Rec-Law, #RecLawBlog, #Rec-LawBlog, #RecLawyer, #RecreationalLawyer, #RecreationLaw, #RecreationLawBlog, #RecreationLawcom, #Recreation-Lawcom,, #RiskManagement, #RockClimbing, #RockClimbingLawyer, #RopesCourse, #RopesCourseLawyer, #SkiAreas, #Skiing, #SkiLaw, #Snowboarding, #SummerCamp, #Tourism, #TravelLaw, #YouthCamps, #ZipLineLawyer, Camp, Custody and Control, Summer Camp, Youth Camp, Phoenix Mountain Collaborative, LLC., Big Sky Summer Adventure Program, Explorations, Trout Creek, Montana, Idaho, Assault, Float Trip, Run away, Runaway, Treatment Program,



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