Before a meeting a volunteer leader has no duty to protect the youth. Besides kids throw snowballs.Posted: January 18, 2016
If there is snow, then there will be snowball fights.
State: New York: Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department
Plaintiff: James W. Allen, Jr. (I think)
Defendant: Martin Alvero (I think)
Plaintiff Claims: Negligent Supervision
Defendant Defenses: No Duty
Holding: For the Defendant
This is a great decision, not only for the holding but for several statements and just solid logical reasoning for the decision.
A group of youth was sitting outside waiting for the Boy Scout meeting to start. During that time, the plaintiff was hit on the head by an ice ball. The defendant scoutmaster said he had not arrived yet the plaintiff said the Scoutmaster had arrived and had gone into the building without letting the youth in.
The ice ball was allegedly the first snowball thrown.
The Scoutmaster moved to dismiss the complaint, and the trial court denied the dismissal. The Scoutmaster appealed giving rise to this decision.
The parties are never identified by name just the appellant is the person brining the appeal, named first in the pleading, so I am assuming the appellant scoutmaster is Martin Alvero.
Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.
Here was the basis of the court’s decision to dismiss the case quoting from a similar fact situation at a school.
“[n]o one grows up in this climate without throwing snowballs and being hit by them. If snow is on the ground as children come to school, it would require intense policing, almost child by child, to take all snowball throwing out of play. It is unreasonable to demand or expect such perfection in supervision from ordinary teachers or ordinary school management; and a fair test of reasonable care does not demand it”.
The court then reasoned that additional, the defendant had no notice of a snowball fight. “Given the absence of proof that the defendant in the present case had notice of an ongoing and potentially dangerous snowball fight, the plaintiff may not prevail on a theory of inadequate supervision…”
Here is another key provision that is important to remember if you are a volunteer.
This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the plaintiff’s father was present in his car about 50 feet away and neither he nor any of the other parents who were present in the area saw fit to intervene in any way prior to the incident.
Because the father was still present, he could have done something about a snowball fight. More importantly because the plaintiff’s father was still present, he is liable for the plaintiff.
Finally, the court found that the Scout meeting had not begun so therefore the liability of the Scoutmaster (adult volunteer) could not attach.
We also note that the scout meeting had not begun, no official scouting activity was taking place, and, according to the plaintiff’s version, the defendant had entered the building locking the door behind him, thus implicitly leaving the assembling Boy Scouts in the custody of the adults who were present outside
So Now What?
There are several great take a-ways from this case for New York Volunteers.
Until the youth meeting has begun, no liability attaches to the adult volunteers. Likewise, until the adult volunteer arrives no liability attaches.
Second and most importantly no liability attaches to third parties for protecting a child with the parents present unless the acts are intentional. If you are concerned about a child or the child’s parent or if the parent is concerned about your supervision over their child, just require them to be present.
Finally, kids are kids and there is something that no adult can stop kids from doing. Snow on the ground leads to snowball fights and there is nothing you can do about it.
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