$5 Million because a church took a kid skiing and allowed him to……..ski

The young man was unsupervised and was hit by another skier.

A Tampa, Florida jury awarded $5 million dollars to a then 14 year old boy who was injured in skier v. skier accident. The church, Idlewild Baptist Church took the plaintiff skiing to North Carolina in 2003. The plaintiff had never been skiing before. While skiing, he ended up on an expert slope and was hit by another skier, allegedly going fifty-five miles an hour.

How can you achieve a speed of 55 miles per hour in North Carolina? It is almost impossible on 95% of the slopes in Colorado. Someone’s expert was blowing snow to a Florida jury.

The collision left the boy with spinal damage and never injuries, which created a permanent limp, leg atrophy and a drop foot.

However, the church did screw up. The church told the mother, there would be one chaperone for every ten kids. The defendant church did not have enough chaperones. This allowed the plaintiff’s attorney to claim: “So his mother relied on Idlewild — of which they’d been members for 10 years — to act as a surrogate parent on the out-of-state trip….”

Surrogate parent? Do you believe the mother intended to create a surrogate parent relationship with the church when her son went skiing or this was a great trial argument?

The lawsuit also claimed that “… the teen did not receive ski lessons or instructions and no chaperone or ski partner stayed with him, according to the lawsuit.”

The boy’s mother was found 5% liable, which will reduce the damages paid to $4.75 million.
The plaintiff’s attorney is quoted at the end of the article as saying “”We hope this verdict will help other kids be protected in the future….”

I suspect the only thing that will change is churches will no longer take kids skiing. It will be considered too risky. Lose track of a 14 year old kid and lose $4.75 million.

However, there is a lesson to be learned from this.

  1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you say you are going to have X number of chaperones have at least that many chaperones.
  2. If you say the youth will receive lessons, make sure he gets a ski lesson.
  3. If you say the chaperones will be with the kids at all times, cancel the trip. You can’t stay with kids on a ski area, unless you have a one-to-one ration of adults to kids and even then I think you will lose some.
  4. Tell the parents what skiing is, tell them you are transporting the kids up and back, but you can’t stay with the kids all the time. Tell the mother if she is worried she should come on the trip or not send her child. Tell the mother if she sends her child it is her responsibility to make sure the child knows and obeys the rules.

To see the article read Jury awards nearly $5 million to young man hurt on Idlewild church ski trip.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2010 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law, Recreaton.Law@Gmail.com

© 2010 James H. Moss

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