It is not a perfect world and perfection is not required of camp counselors in New York.Posted: January 30, 2017
The camp counselor’s reaction when a large camper jumped on his back was not negligence. The injury the plaintiff received was from his own actions, not from the horseplay of others.
State: New York, Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Third Department
Plaintiff: Benjamin W. Gibbud, an Infant, by Melissa H. Gibbud, His Parent, et al.,
Defendant: Camp Shane, Inc.
Plaintiff Claims: Negligence and Negligent Supervision
Defendant Defenses: No negligence
Holding: For the defendant
This is a simple case. When a large, almost as large as the counselor, camper jumps on the counselor’s back, the counselor’s reaction as long as not overly violent or extreme, is not negligence.
In this case it was raining and the counselor and campers were in their cabin. The campers were baiting one another and one camper who was only 20 pounds lighter than the 335 counselor and one inch taller jumped on the counselor’s back. The counselor shrugged him off and either the camper hit the ground breaking his ankle or broke his ankle when the counselor shoved the camper.
The camper and his mother sued. The trial court granted the defendant summary judgment and the plaintiff’s appealed.
Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.
The court set out the various New York Laws affecting this case. New York law states the duty of care owed children by persons supervising them is one “is that which a reasonably prudent parent would observe under comparable circumstances.”
Horseplay is always found around groups of kids and is associated with camps. Horseplay is “only to be discouraged when it becomes dangerous.”
Moreover, a parent, teacher or other person entrusted [*867] with the care or supervision of a child may use such physical force as he or she reasonably believes to be necessary to maintain control and discipline
Moreover the court found the horse play which preceded the event giving rise to the injury of the plaintiff had nothing to do with the plaintiff getting injured. Horseplay was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The case of the plaintiff’s injury was the plaintiff jumping on the back of the counselor, “it was the manner in which he did so, his own impulsive and reckless act of grabbing Wendorf [the counselor] from behind, that led to his injury.”
Given that Wendorf did not know who had suddenly jumped on his back, his reaction to being blindsided and having his arms pinned to his sides in a bear hug by the physically imposing plaintiff raises no issue of his inappropriate or unreasonable use of force.
The court found there was no duty or breach of duty and also found that the injury was not a result of any alleged breach of duty. Three of the four requirements to prove negligence were not met. The decision of the trial court was upheld.
So Now What?
It is also nice to see a case where common sense is obvious in the reasoning of the case. Kids will be kids and whenever there is a group of kids, there will be fooling around. Until the kidding and horse play get dangerous, there is no duty in New York to stop it.
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