Louisiana does not allow the use of a release so great training of its patrons saved this climbing wall.Posted: July 1, 2013
Education saves the day.
Ravey v. Rockworks, LLC, Et Al. 12-1305 (La.App. 3 Cir. 04/10/13); 2013 La. App. LEXIS 720
Plaintiff: Carl Ravey
Defendant: Rockworks, LLC, Colony Specialty Ins. Co.
1. There is an increased duty to provide training and supervision when minors are involved in an inherently dangerous activity.
2. There are genuine issues of material fact regarding the adequacy of training received by the plaintiff party prior to engaging in a hazardous activity and regarding the adequacy of the supervision provided after training.
Holding: For the Defendant
The more you educate your guests the greater your success at a great trip and a win in court.
This case was based on a Civil Air Patrol Group (CAP) going to a climbing gym as part of its training. The CAP is composed of adults and minors; the plaintiff in this case was an adult in the group. The group went to the defendant’s climbing facilities as part of its training.
The participants paid the individual fees and then attended a 15-20-minute group training with an employee of the climbing wall. After the group training, the participants received training in pairs as belayer and climber. After that training, the belayer and climber were supervised. The plaintiff had climbed 5-6 times before he fell. The belayer was using a GriGri and held the brake open. The belayer released the break lever catching the plaintiff but not before he broke his leg.
The belayer for the plaintiff was 14 at the time of the accident.
The plaintiff brought a suit for negligence, which was dismissed after the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.
Summary of the case
The first issue was whether the defendant owed the plaintiff a heightened duty of care because a minor was belaying him and/or because climbing is an inherently dangerous activity. The court then looked at what is required to prove negligence in Louisiana: “….a plaintiff must prove five separate elements: (1) duty, (2) breach, (3) cause-in-fact, (4) scope of duty/scope of risk, and (5) actual damages.”
The elements are basically the same as in any other state; they are just further identified and broken down into five requirements rather than the normal four in Louisiana. Most other states define negligence as duty, breach of duty, injury, damages proximately caused to the breach.
The court also explained the elements of duty in Louisiana.
Duty is a question of law. Simply put, the inquiry is whether the plaintiff has any law–statutory, jurisprudential, or arising from general principles of fault–to support his claim. The duty owed to an invitee “is that of reasonable and ordinary care, which includes the prior discovery of reasonably discoverable conditions of the premises that may be unreasonably dangerous, and correction thereof or a warning to the invitee of the danger
This duty necessarily includes a general responsibility to ensure that their members know how to properly use gym equipment.
The court did state that rock climbing is an “unreasonably dangerous activity” that requires a heightened duty upon the part of the gym owner. However, proof of that is evidenced of failing to provide the required supervision which has causation with the lack of supervision and the accident. Gyms are not the insurers of the safety of the patrons.
To prove negligence on the part of Rok Haus [defendant], Ravey [plaintiff] must show both a failure to provide reasonable training and supervision under the circumstances, as well as proof of a causal connection between this lack of reasonable training/supervision and the accident.
The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care. That was met, in the eyes of the court by the plaintiff.
The equipment was visually inspected prior to usage and was functioning properly after the incident. Ravey and Kelley [plaintiff and belayer] were given proper instructions on how to climb the wall and use the equipment properly. Ravey and Kelley were also observed using the equipment to lower climbers properly before they were allowed to climb and belay by themselves. During the time the group was climbing prior to the accident, two Rok Haus [defendant] employees observed the group to ensure they were using the gym’s equipment properly. Ravey made five or six successful climbs on the wall of the gym prior to the accident.
The next issue was whether the trainings the plaintiff and belayer received were adequate. Again, the court referred to the same set of facts.
The belayers must then operate the rope and the Grigri under the supervision of an instructor. After demonstrating an ability to belay the instructor, the belayers are allowed to belay volunteer climbers in the group under the supervision of the instructor.
This safety training session lasted approximately fifteen to twenty minutes. The members of the Civil Air Patrol group were individually instructed in safe climbing and belaying techniques and were observed operating the equipment properly before being allowed to climb and belay on their own. After receiving their safety training in the proper methods of belaying, Ravey, Kelley, and the rest of the Civil Air Patrol group climbed for forty-five minutes to an hour. During this time, two supervisors were present who observed the group to ensure that they were using the gym’s equipment properly. Ravey made five or six climbs on the wall prior to his accident.
The court stated that rock climbing involved substantial risk as a recreational activity. However, that risk was no different from weight lifting or swimming. The duty of the gym owner is to provide a “sound and secure” environment for undertaking any risk activity. There is no requirement to insure against any accident or injury.
The plaintiff could not point to any authority stating that a 14-year-old could not belay or any fact indicating the gym had not provided enough training. Consequently, the court upheld the dismissal of the complaint.
So Now What?
Here the climbing gym won because they had thoroughly trained the participants in climbing, belaying and the procedures of the gym. It also helped that the plaintiff had been belayed successfully 5-6 times prior to the incident which caused his injury.
The plaintiff also could not point out anything that the gym had done or failed to do that contributed to the injury. The training showed the participants how to belay; the belayer simply failed to use the belay device properly.
Education is what will save you. The more you educate your guests the more fun they will have. The more you educate your guests the safer they will be. The more you educate your guests the more prepared they will be. The more you educate your guests, the greater the chance you can prove you did not do anything wrong. The more you educate your guests the more you can prove your guests knew and undertook the risks.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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