Stop Feuding, I doubt, move forward anyway, I think you can.

The Challenge/Ropes Course Industry is still fighting after all these years……it is a very sad song.

The challenge course, or as it was known in its beginning, the ropes’ course industry, is still setting itself up to be sued, successfully sued. My calculations show they have had judgments and settlements in excess of $5.1 million. See Payouts in Outdoor Recreation. Not included in those calculations are another $3.1 million that I learned of that was a settlement this past summer (2011). In 10 years, the industry has had $8.2 million in pay outs based upon my research. Who knows how much more has been paid that is confidential settlements or judgments I can’t find.

In my opinion, a major part of the problem is standards. Which is probably why they are losing these suits and why the industry is a mess?

There are two separate groups writing standards for the industry. Neither of those groups is part of the ASTM, both are trying to become ANSI standard setting organizations.

Standards for things; bolts, screws, wood, concrete are already done by the ASTM.  Those are great standards, created correctly and are needed by this industry. Those standards are always going to trump anything the ropes’ course industry does. Consequently, ignoring that is a joke. For things (anything without a personality) refer to and adopt the ASTM standards.

Any standard that recreates or redoes the standards established by the ASTM is 1) a waste of time and 2) only a way to create litigation. The ASTM standard is going to be controlling. If the standard created by an industry association is lower than the ASTM standard or even different, the standard will be violated because the ASTM will be controlling.

For any cables/wire, the European standards for ski lifts control. Those standards on wire have been around for almost 100 years and are great. Again, this is a monster waste of time and energy to create something that does not matter.

For people, get rid of those standards. People make mistakes, not concrete. If it can make a mistake, dump the standard attached to it. For more on this issue see Trade Association Standards sink a Summer Camp when a plaintiff uses them to prove Camp was negligent, Expert Witness Report: ACA “Standards” are used by Expert for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a Camp, and ACA “Standards” are used by Expert for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a Camp

Here is what the National Ski Area Association says about standards: See NSAA and standards. Understand that the lifts have standards but the ski areas do not. The NSAA is like 99% of the rest of the trade associations in the world; they know that writing standards is a legal nightmare.

What you should do.

If you are part of the ropes’ course industry, you need to protect yourself from the problems created by these dual standards. Get both sets of standards and create reasons why you are not following specific ones. That way in advance, you protect yourself. Be specific, not just it does not apply and do not use the word money or cost unless you can show a better way that may be cheaper.

Resolution of the issues for the Standards

There are several options on how to resolve the problem.

1.     One group can get to the ANSI, finish up and have “standards.” However, this will only work if the other group, then drops its standards. One group has indicated they will not. Can you think of this getting any worse that would occur?

2.     Eliminate both sets of “standards” and start gain from scratch. Go to the ASTM and set up a committee to set up standards and adopt all the ASTM ones that are done. What is left can be written at that point. I suspect that will be a short piece of paper.

I believe this alternative has the best legal benefits.

3.     Find six people who are not vested in winning. It is too small of a job for anything less, and I don’t think you can find eight impartial people with respect to the groups.  They should go through each standard and write down the best one and move on. I would give them standards that are not identified as to who created which ones. All they are working with is words on paper, not logos or IDs.

If you want to see where standards can go too far read this article:  Playgrounds will be flat soon. No city can meet the playground standards with the current budgets they have to work with.

Do Something

If you are part of this industry, good luck. There are a lot of great people in the industry; however,  a lot of them have drunk the cool-aid from one group or another and cannot see past their respective “turf.”

Until the standards for operations are gone and there is only one set of standards for the industry, it will be a plaintiff’s playground.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2011 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law, Recreation.Law@Gmail.com

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