Statements made to keep a sold trip going come back to haunt defendant after whitewater rafting death.

Never forget, Marketing makes promises risk management has to pay for. Statement made about the water level dropping by the time a certain rapid was to be reached at issue in litigation but allows the plaintiff to add claims for punitive damages.

The Estate of Joseph R. Kane, v. Epley’s Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48179

State: Idaho, United States District Court for the District of Idaho

Plaintiff: The Estate of Joseph R. Kane, deceased; Stacie Kane, individually, and as guardian of Joseph P. Kane; and Thomas Kane, individually,

Defendant: Epley’s Inc.

Plaintiff Claims: Motion to add punitive damages to the complaint

Defendant Defenses: Evidence does not support the motion

Holding: Plaintiff’s motions were granted

Year: 2017

This case concerns statements made prior to a Whitewater rafting trip in Idaho on the Lower Salmon River. A group of Boy Scouts and their adult volunteers booked this trip with the defendant. The majority of the Boy Scouts on the trip did not have any Whitewater experience.

The deceased was ejected from the raft in this section of the lower Salmon River known the slide wrap. Idaho has an outfitters and guide’s statute that says an outfitter is liable if they breach the standard of care for their industry.

Through this action, Plaintiffs (to include the estate of Mr. Kane, his wife Stacie Kane, and sons Thomas and Joseph P. Kane) claim that Epley’s conduct — in particular, its decision to run the Slide Rapid at flows above 23,000 cubic feet per second (“cfs”) — breached the standard of care applicable to outfitters and guides under chapter 12, Title 6, Idaho Code and that said breach was a direct and proximate result of Mr. Kane’s death.

The issue for the plaintiffs when they arrived at the defendant’s office was the volume of water flowing on the river. It is slightly confusing, but it seems the Bureau of Land Management or the outfitting association on the river had set a cutoff of 23,000 CFS as the maximum level, the river could be rafted. There was discussion at the time Boy Scouts arrived as to what the actual river flow was and what the flow would be in a few days when the group reached the big rapid.

The plaintiffs argued to the appellate court that the defendant intentionally misrepresented the flow of the river and whether not the flow would go up or down. This misrepresentation made by the defendant was the basis for the plaintiff’s motion to amend their complaint and add a claim requesting punitive damages.

According to Plaintiffs, Epley’s not only ignored and misrepresented to the group the extreme risks presented by the water levels forecasted to be encountered at Slide Rapid on June 27, 2014 (thus permitting the trip’s June 24, 2014 launch in the first instance), its later decision to actually continue through Slide Rapid on June 27, 2014 at flows in excess of 23,500 cfs represented an extreme deviation from industry standards.

The arguments made by the plaintiffs are that the manager for the defendant misled them on the river volume and what the volume of the river would be on the date when the group encountered slide wrap. The plaintiffs also argued that the defendants had an opportunity to avoid slide rapid by taking out or going on a different trip.

As of this date, this case has not gone to trial. This is only a preliminary motion’s hearing. What it takes to prove the plaintiff’s case at trial may be totally different than what the facts in this decision are. There is also higher likelihood that the case will settle now.

Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.

The court first looked into the requirements under Idaho statutes add a claim for punitive damages and what punitive damages were in Idaho.

In any action seeking recovery of punitive damages, the claimant must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, oppressive, fraudulent, malicious or outrageous conduct by the party against whom the claim for punitive damages is asserted.

To prove a claim and receive punitive damages in Idaho the plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant made fraudulent misstatement or engaged in outrages conduct. There is a high standard of proof to build a case to recover punitive damages.

That definition includes a defendant acting in such a way that is extreme deviated from the reasonable standard of care or acted maliciously fraudulently or outrageously.

Ultimately, an award of punitive damages requires a bad act and a bad state of mind. The defendant must (1) act in a manner that was an extreme deviation from reasonable standards of conduct with an understanding of — or disregard for — the likely consequences, and must (2) act with an extremely harmful state of mind, described variously as with malice, oppression, fraud, or outrageousness.

However, that requirement of proof set out above does not need to be met to allege punitive damages in the complaint. To add a claim for punitive damages in the complaint, plaintiff needs only prove a reasonable likelihood of proving facts at trial to support a claim.

However, for purposes of a motion to amend, the party seeking to add a claim for punitive damages does not need to meet this high burden; rather, the party need only show “a reasonable likelihood of proving facts at trial sufficient to support an award of punitive damages.”

These requirements are balanced by the theory that under Idaho law, punitive damages were not favored and should only be awarded in most unusual compelling circumstances.

As a matter of substantive law, it is well established in Idaho that punitive damages are not favored and should be awarded only in the most unusual and compelling circumstances, and are to be awarded cautiously and within narrow limits.

The plaintiff’s argument centered on the river flows on the dates of the trip. The defendant argued that by the time the party reached the slide rapid the water levels would have decreased. The plaintiff argued that the opposite occurred, that the water levels had increased. The Plaintiff also argued that the guides could have called or should have called for more help.

Still, Defendant decided to proceed through Slide Rapid with allegedly unqualified guides, foregoing options to use an available satellite phone to discuss potentially safer options for the relatively inexperienced group, portage around Slide Rapid, or altogether exit the river on land at Eagle Creek (the last place where the group could have readily done so).

The court found the plaintiff had produced enough evidence to prove there was a likelihood that they could prevail on their punitive damages claim at trial.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, and giving Plaintiff the benefit of all legitimate inferences without assessing credibility, Plaintiffs have established a reasonable likelihood of proving by clear and convincing evidence that Defendant acted in a manner that was an extreme deviation from reasonable standards of conduct with an understanding (as an experienced outfitter) of — or disregard for — the likely consequences of those actions.

The court then looked at the plaintiff’s claim that the defendant acted with the bad state of mind court or an extremely harmful state of mind. They argued that the manager of the defendant’s river operation purposely misled them about the river levels.

In other words, Plaintiffs argue that Mr. Blackner purposely misled Ms. Schaefer and, thus, the group by failing to inform them of actual (as of the June 24, 2014 launch date) and projected (for the anticipated encounter with Slide Rapid on June 27, 2014) river flows — that is, it was fraudulent and outrageous for Mr. Blackner to say that the forecasted flow for Slide Rapid on June 27, 2014 was 17,000 cfs, when, in actuality, it was much higher.

Again, even though the defendant disputed the allegations. There was enough evidence in addition to the witness statements to support the claim. In fact, the court found that there was more enough evidence to support the claim and that the defendant had acted with the bad state of mind.

In other words, Plaintiffs argue that Mr. Blackner purposely misled Ms. Schaefer and, thus, the group by failing to inform them of actual (as of the June 24, 2014 launch date) and projected (for the anticipated encounter with Slide Rapid on June 27, 2014) river flows — that is, it was fraudulent and outrageous for Mr. Blackner to say that the forecasted flow for Slide Rapid on June 27, 2014 was 17,000 cfs, when, in actuality, it was much higher.

Consequently, the plaintiff’s motion to amend the complaint and add a claim for punitive damages was upheld by the court.

So Now What?

Honestly, it is hard to believe that the river outfitter intentionally misled the plaintiffs in this case. I do suspect that the river outfitter was making statements an attempt to hold onto the trip without either checking the facts or understanding what was really going on with river flows.

Water levels are a constant source of discussion between River outfitters. You want the water levels high enough to attract clients and low enough not to hurt anyone. The best River outfitters figure out, which claims to market to which groups for river levels they are expecting.

Things always change when a fatality occurs. Whatever the trip leader says about what is going to be expected will be adopted by the clients. So if river guides say the rivers okay, clients know the river is okay.

Never forget, marketing makes promises that risk management has to pay for. Here, in an attempt to hold onto a group of clients for a multi-day whitewater rafting trip, marketing might’ve taken over when risk management might’ve been the road.

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BSA (Cub Scout) volunteer was not liable for injuries to cub because cub assumed the risk of his injuries. The BSA & Council were not liable because volunteer was not an agent.

A volunteer is not an employee or under the control of the sponsoring organization or BSA councils. Additionally, the plaintiff was injured due to an inherent risk of the sport and therefore the defendants owed him no duty because of the doctrine of primary assumption of risk.

Santho et al., v. Boy Scouts of America et al., 168 Ohio App. 3d 27; 2006-Ohio-3656; 857 N.E.2d 1255; 2006 Ohio App. LEXIS 3606

State: Ohio, Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth Appellate District, Franklin County

Plaintiff: Lynn and Rick Santho, on behalf of their son, Jamie Santho

Defendant: Boy Scouts of America, Simon Kenton Council, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, and the Chiller Ice Rink

Plaintiff Claims: negligence, reckless/intentional conduct, respondeat superior, and loss of consortium

Defendant Defenses: Assumption of the Risk, No Duty

Holding: For the defendant

Year: 2006

A Cub Scout & his family went on a Cub Scout event at a skating rink. The Defendant volunteer of the Cub Scout Pack was a contractor for the skating rink, but not working at the time. She was a Den Mother in the Cub Pack.

The plaintiff played hockey. On the night in question, the plaintiff was racing with his friends, and he crashed into the boards suffering a concussion. The Defendant Ice Rink had rules that prohibited racing.

The plaintiff sued the Ice Rink, the Volunteer, the BSA Council and the Chartered Organization, a church.

The defendants filed various motions for summary judgment, but not all. A trial was held and at close of arguments, the court granted the defendant volunteer a directed verdict.

A directed verdict is one that after all the evidence has been presented at trial, the plaintiff has failed to prove their case, and the court directs a verdict for the defendant.

Motions for summary judgment and for directed verdict address the same issue, albeit at different times during the process of litigation. Whether in summary judgment proceedings or during trial, the ultimate issue under either Civ.R. 56 or 50 is whether the evidence is sufficient to present an issue for determination by the trier of fact. Summary judgment raises this question prior to trial; directed verdict raises the question during trial.  A court does not consider the weight of the evidence or credibility of the witnesses in ruling on either a motion for summary judgment under Civ.R. 56, or in ruling on a motion for directed verdict under Civ.R. 50. The question is whether there is sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue for a jury to decide.

The plaintiff appealed the directed verdict and various motions for summary judgment that were granted.

Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.

The appellate court started by reviewing the motions for summary judgment based on primary assumption of the risk. In Ohio, primary assumption of risk is a defense to claims for injuries from recreational activities.

Under the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk, an individual injured in the course of a recreational activity is presumed to have assumed the ordinary risks of that activity unless it can be shown that another actor acted recklessly or intentionally in causing the injury. The doctrine serves to remove liability for negligence under these circumstances.

Proof of primary assumption of the risk is a three-part test.

The test requires that: (1) the danger is ordinary to the game; (2) it is common knowledge that the danger exists; and (3) the injury occurs as a result of the danger during the course of the game.

The court found that it was foreseeable that anytime a person was ice skating or stepping on ice that falls or coming into contact with barriers was real.

There is no question that Jamie was participating in a recreational activity at the time he was injured. Falling is an ordinary danger of ice-skating. Colliding with the perimeter boards is an ordinary danger of ice rink skating. It was during the course of ice-skating and participating in the relay race that Jamie was injured.

In reviewing the facts of the defense presented and the arguments made supporting the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk, the age of the plaintiff as well as the knowledge of the plaintiff are not factors. Meaning in primary assumption of the risk there is no requirement to prove the plaintiff knew in advance of the risks they may encounter in the activity.

The appellant’s age and ability to appreciate the danger involved is immaterial to the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk. Only the conduct of defendant is relevant to recovery.

If the court finds that the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk has been found, then there is not negligence. That is because the first requirement to prove negligence, a duty, does not exist. If the recreational activity has risks, the plaintiff assumes those risks; consequently, there is no duty to protect the plaintiff from the risks on the part of the defendant.

However, a recreation provider ordinarily owes no duty to a participant or spectator of an active sport to eliminate the risks inherent in the sport. Here, Bennett organized the fun skate for Pack 210, as she had on several previous occasions. That was her main project for the pack. Therefore, Bennett qualifies as a recreation provider.

The next issue was whether the volunteer acted recklessly. In Ohio, recklessness is defined as:

The actor’s conduct is in reckless disregard of the safety of another if he does an act or intentionally fails to do an act which it is his duty to the other to do, knowing or having reason to know of facts which would lead a reasonable man to realize, not only that his conduct creates an unreasonable risk of physical harm to another, but also that such risk is substantially greater than that which is necessary to make his conduct negligent.

Violating a rule or a statute is not enough to create a recklessness claim. Recklessness is an intentional act in creating a higher risk resulting in serious harm.

Furthermore, the Restatement notes that simply violating a statute or rule is not enough to constitute a reckless disregard for safety. The violation of the rule must (1) be intentional; and (2) be recognized as resulting in a significantly higher risk that serious harm will occur. A plaintiff cannot recover from any injuries that stemmed from “conduct that is a foreseeable, customary part” of the activity in which the plaintiff was injured.

Because the defendant volunteer did not increase the risk of harm by organizing the event or the race that injured the plaintiff, the defendant was not reckless. Nor did not require the plaintiff to wear a helmet constitute recklessness.

Appellants further argue that Bennett was reckless in not requiring Jamie to wear a helmet. No evidence was submitted to support this claim. Jamie’s father testified that he allowed his son to participate in the recreational skate without a helmet. Other testimony presented at trial showed that no fun skate participants were wearing helmets and that helmets are typically worn only while playing hockey. Finally, there was evidence that requiring helmets is not an industry standard.

The remaining defendants were part of the case because the plaintiff argued they were liable based on vicarious liability. There was no evidence that the defendant was an agent because they had no control over the volunteer defendant.

In contrast, there is no evidence to suggest that Bennett was acting as the agent of the BSA, SKC or POPLC. Bennett organized the family fun skate outside the framework of the BSA organization. The fun skate was held at a facility completely independent of the BSA. There is no evidence that the BSA, SKC or POPLC were aware of or had any control over the conduct of either Bennett or the fun skate. There is no evidence that Bennett acted as an agent of the Boy Scouts or any of the other organizations.

The ice rink was also not liable for the defendant based on the theory of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior states an employer is liable for the acts of its employee. However, at the time of the accident, the defendant ice rink was not paying or employing the defendant volunteer.

At the time of the fun skate, Bennett was not being paid by the Chiller. She was not acting as a rink guard. According to the evidence presented by the trial court, rink guards wore distinctive clothing that identified them in that capacity. There is no evidence that Bennett was acting as, or held herself out as a rink guard for the Chiller. Instead, the evidence supports only that Bennett was acting as a den mother of Pack 210 and organized the fun skate for Pack 210. She was there as a volunteer for Pack 210 and as a parent. Therefore, the trial court did not err in finding that there was insufficient evidence to show that Bennett was an agent of the Chiller and acting on behalf of the Chiller at the time Jamie was injured.

Because the volunteer defendant was found not to be reckless, the remaining defendants were not liable based on claims of vicarious liability.

So Now What?

The outcome of this case was first based upon an understanding of the relationship between a volunteer, the chartering organization, the BSA Council and the Boy Scouts of America by the appellate court. It is always important for the court to understand the legal relationship between the parties.

Volunteers are under the supervision and control, if any, of the chartering organization. The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America grants to the chartering organization the right to use its program. That grant is through, he local council who approves the chartering organization. Neither the National Council nor the local council have any real control over the volunteers the chartering organization approves.

Again primary assumption of the risk prevented the claims of the plaintiff because the plaintiff was participating in a sport or recreational activity and the injury the plaintiff suffered was an inherent risk of the sport or recreational activity.

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Santho et al., v. Boy Scouts of America et al., 168 Ohio App. 3d 27; 2006-Ohio-3656; 857 N.E.2d 1255; 2006 Ohio App. LEXIS 3606

Santho et al., v. Boy Scouts of America et al., 168 Ohio App. 3d 27; 2006-Ohio-3656; 857 N.E.2d 1255; 2006 Ohio App. LEXIS 3606

Lynn T. Santho et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Boy Scouts of America et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 05AP-341

COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO, TENTH APPELLATE DISTRICT, FRANKLIN COUNTY

168 Ohio App. 3d 27; 2006-Ohio-3656; 857 N.E.2d 1255; 2006 Ohio App. LEXIS 3606

July 18, 2006, Rendered

COUNSEL: Kemp, Schaeffer, Rowe and Lardiere Co., L.P.A., Steven D. Rowe and Darren A. McNair, for appellants.

Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, and Theodore P. Mattis, for appellees Boy Scouts of America, Simon Kenton Council, and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.

Reminger & Reminger, Paul Michael LaFayette and Michael V. Valentine, for appellee Central Ohio Ice Rink, Inc./Chiller Ice Rink.

Bale, Begin & Associates, Ltd., David G. Bale and Christopher R. Cave, for appellee Margaret Bennett.

JUDGES: TRAVIS, J. BROWN and SADLER, JJ., concur.

OPINION BY: TRAVIS

OPINION

[*31] [***1258] (REGULAR CALENDAR)

TRAVIS, J.

[**P1] Lynn and Rick Santho, on behalf of their son, Jamie Santho (“appellants”), appeal from summary judgment entered by the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on July 8, 2004 in favor of Boy Scouts of America, Simon Kenton Council, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, and the Chiller Ice Rink (“Chiller”), and a directed verdict entered by the same court on March 2, 2005 in favor of Margaret Bennett.

[**P2] Boy Scouts of America (“BSA”) issued a charter to the Simon Kenton Council (“SKC”), which in turn issued a charter to the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (“POPLC”) for the purpose of sponsoring Troop 210. The pack committee, which was made up of parents and organized by POPLC, supervised all [*32] everyday operations and the planning of activities of Troop 210. Jamie Santho (“Jamie”), age nine, was a Cub Scout in Troop 210. His Cub Scout Master was Fred Bigney (“Bigney”). Margaret Bennett (“Bennett”) was a den leader in the troop.

[**P3] In addition to her role as a den leader, Bennett also had significant ice-skating experience. Prior to her employment with the Chiller, Bennett was employed by the Ice Skating Institute of America as program and educational coordinator. Following that, she taught ice-skating at Ohio State University. At the time of the incident giving rise to this action, Bennett was a salaried employee of the Chiller, an ice rink located in Dublin, Ohio, and run by Central Ohio Ice Rinks, Inc. At the Chiller, Bennett served as the Skating School Director. Her duties included organizing class schedules and training instructors. On occasion, she also taught hourly lessons for a fee.

[**P4] On November 13, 1994, Bennett organized a family fun skate at the Chiller for the members and parents of Troop 210. She filled out the “Agreement for Ice Rental” and provided information and fliers to the members at their Pack meeting.

[**P5] Jamie Santho, his father, and his siblings attended the fun skate. Jamie was an avid skater, participated in hockey leagues, and took hockey lessons at the Chiller. Jamie’s father was a volunteer hockey coach at the Chiller. On the night of the event, Jamie’s father permitted Jamie to skate without his hockey helmet. Shortly after arriving, Jamie was racing with his friend, Colin Innes, from board to board. When Jamie looked over his shoulder to see where Colin was, he crashed into the boards and suffered a skull fracture and concussion. Appellants allege that Bennett had organized the relay race against the rules of the Chiller.

[**P6] Appellants filed suit against BSA, POPLC, SKC, the Chiller, and Bennett in 1997. Appellants dismissed their suit pursuant to Civ.R. 41 and re-filed on October 1, 2002, seeking recovery for claims of negligence, reckless/intentional conduct, respondeat superior, and loss of consortium. The trial court granted summary judgment to all appellees on the claim for negligence, under the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk. The trial court also granted summary judgment to BSA, SKC and POPLC for the claim of recklessness on the grounds that Bennett was not an agent of the organizations, and therefore, no liability could be imputed. [***1259] The Chiller also was granted summary judgment on plaintiffs’ recklessness claim. The trial court denied Bennett summary judgment on the recklessness claim and the issue proceeded to trial.

[**P7] The matter was tried on February 28, March 1, and March 2, 2005. At the close of arguments on March 2, the trial court granted Bennett’s motion for a directed verdict.

[**P8] Appellants timely appealed and assert four assignments of error:

[*33] I. THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR BY GRANTING DEFENDANT MARGARET BENNETT A DIRECTED VERDICT AFTER THE CLOSE OF PLAINTIFFS’ CASE. PLAINTIFFS PRESENTED SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO PERMIT THE JURY TO CONSIDER THE ISSUE OF WHETHER DEFENDANT BENNETT’S CONDUCT WAS RECKLESS.

II. THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR BY GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON PLAINTIFFS’ RECKLESSNESS CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANTS BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, SIMON KENTON COUNCIL, PRINCE OF PEACE LUTHERAN CHURCH AND CENTRAL OHIO ICE RINKS, INC./THE CHILLER BECAUSE IT ERRONEOUSLY HELD THAT MARGARET BENNETT WAS NOT AN AGENT OF ANY OF THE AFOREMENTIONED DEFENDANTS, BUT ASSUMING ARGUENDO SHE WAS, THE COURT ERRONEOUSLY HELD FURTHER THAT PRINCIPALS ARE NOT VICARIOUSLY LIABILE [sic] FOR THE RECKLESS ACTS OF ITS AGENTS.

III. THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR BY GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON PLAINTIFF’S [sic] NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANTS BENNETT, BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, SIMON KENTON COUNCIL, PRINCE OF PEACE LUTHERAN CHURCH, AND CENTRAL OHIO ICE RINKS, INC./THE CHILLER BECAUSE THE COURT ERRONEOUSLY RELIED ON GENTRY V. CRAYCRAFT (2004), 101 OHIO ST. 3D 141, 2004 OHIO 379, 802 N.E.2D 1116, AND MISAPPLIED THE DOCTRINE OF PRIMARY ASSUMPTION OF THE RISK TO THE FACTS IN THIS CASE.

IV. GENTRY V. CRAYCRAFT (2004) 101 OHIO ST.3D 141 [sic] IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL BECAUSE IT DEPRIVES CITIZENS OF THE STATE OF OHIO, AND IN THIS CASE PLAINTIFFS, RIGHTS UNDER ARTICLE I, SECTIONS 5 AND 16 OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION.

[**P9] [HN1] Appellate review of motions for summary judgment is de novo. [HN2] The moving party bears the burden of proving that: (1) no genuine issues of material fact exist; (2) the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law; and (3) reasonable minds can come to only one conclusion, which is adverse to the nonmoving party. Civ.R. 56. Where the evidence supports a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must present specific facts beyond the pleadings to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists and therefore, the moving party is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Dresher v. Burt (1996), 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 1996 Ohio 107, 662 N.E.2d 264.

[**P10] [HN3] Appellate review of directed verdicts is also de novo. [HN4] Under Civ.R. 50(A)(1), a motion for directed verdict may be made upon the opening statement of the opponent, at the close of opponent’s evidence, or at the close of all evidence. If, after construing the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the trial court finds that reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion, which is adverse to the nonmoving party, the trial court may direct a verdict in favor of the moving party. Civ.R. 50(A)(4). When considering the evidence, the trial court may not evaluate the weight of the evidence or the credibility of the witnesses. Only the relevancy of the testimony may be [*34] considered. Gibbs v. Village of Girard (1913), 88 Ohio St. 34, 102 N.E. 299, 11 Ohio L. Rep. 39. A directed verdict presents a question of law, not one of fact. O’Day v. Webb (1972), 29 Ohio St.2d 215, 280 N.E.2d 896. Therefore, the sole determination [***1260] for the court is whether the evidence presented is sufficient to present the case to the jury. Ruta v. Breckenridge-Remy Co. (1982), 69 Ohio St.2d 66, 430 N.E.2d 935.

[**P11] Assignments of error one and three contest the trial court’s determination on summary judgment that the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk applied to the facts of this case and its subsequent grant of a directed verdict in Bennett’s favor on the sole remaining issue of recklessness, an exception to primary assumption of the risk. Due to the interrelated nature of these two issues, we consider them first.

[**P12] In their third assignment of error, appellants object to the trial court’s application of primary assumption of the risk to this case. [HN5] Under the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk, an individual injured in the course of a recreational activity is presumed to have assumed the ordinary risks of that activity unless it can be shown that another actor acted recklessly or intentionally in causing the injury. Marchetti v. Kalish (1990), 53 Ohio St.3d 95, 559 N.E.2d 699; Gentry v. Craycraft, 101 Ohio St.3d 141, 2004 Ohio 379, 802 N.E.2d 1116. The doctrine serves to remove liability for negligence under these circumstances. The trial court applied the three-part test for primary assumption of the risk in sporting events set forth in Gallagher v. Cleveland Browns Football Co., Inc. (1994), 93 Ohio App.3d 449, 638 N.E.2d 1082, reversed on other grounds, 74 Ohio St.3d 427, 1996 Ohio 320, 659 N.E.2d 1232. The test requires that: (1) the danger is ordinary to the game; (2) it is common knowledge that the danger exists; and (3) the injury occurs as a result of the danger during the course of the game.

[**P13] It is foreseeable that any time an individual, regardless of skill, steps onto ice, they risk falling or coming into contact with the barriers that set the perimeter of the skating surface. It is foreseeable that anytime an individual falls on ice, or strikes the perimeter boards, they risk injury. Therefore, every time Jamie Santho went onto the ice, either to play hockey or participate in any other activity, he assumed the risk of falling or running into the perimeter boards and injuring himself. There is no question that Jamie was participating in a recreational activity at the time he was injured. Falling is an ordinary danger of ice-skating. Colliding with the perimeter boards is an ordinary danger of ice rink skating. It was during the course of ice-skating and participating in the relay race that Jamie was injured. The appellant’s [HN6] age and ability to appreciate the danger involved is immaterial to the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk. Only the conduct of defendant is relevant to recovery. Gentry, supra.

[**P14] [*35] Appellants further argue that the trial court erred in applying the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk to the facts herein because Bennett was not a participant in the relay race. 1 They argue that case law has only applied the doctrine in circumstances where the [***1261] defendant is another participant. However, [HN7] a recreation provider ordinarily owes no duty to a participant or spectator of an active sport to eliminate the risks inherent in the sport. Gallagher, supra. Here, Bennett organized the fun skate for Pack 210, as she had on several previous occasions. That was her main project for the pack. Therefore, Bennett qualifies as a recreation provider. Bennett is relieved of liability under the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk even though she was a non-participant in the relay race. Based upon the case law and the facts of this case, we find that the trial court properly applied the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk and properly granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on appellants’ negligence claim. Appellants’ third assignment of error is not well-taken and is overruled.

1 The Santhos’ argue that negligent supervision should apply instead. [HN8] For a non-participant to be found liable in a recreational activity, it must be found that the non-participant either (1) allowed an activity to take place absent any management, or (2) allowed a participant with a known propensity for violence to engage in the activity. Rodriguez v. O.C.C.H.A. (2000), Mahoning App. No. 99 C.A. 30, 2000 Ohio App. LEXIS 4608; Kline v. OID Associates, Inc. (1992), 80 Ohio App.3d 393, 609 N.E.2d 564. Bennett managed the first race and the evidence indicates Richard Pretzloff supervised the second race. Furthermore, none of the participants exhibited violent behavior. Therefore, negligent supervision does not apply in this case.

[**P15] Under the first assignment of error, we must determine whether sufficient evidence was presented at trial to raise a jury question of whether Bennett acted recklessly when she organized the fun skate relay race. Appellants argue that the evidence presented on motion for summary judgment and the evidence presented at trial was substantially the same. Appellants state that if the trial court found a genuine issue of material fact on the issue of recklessness when ruling on the motion for summary judgment, that same evidence was sufficient to present a question for the jury on the same issue at trial. Appellants reason that the trial court could not be correct in both instances.

[**P16] [HN9] Motions for summary judgment and for directed verdict address the same issue, albeit at different times during the process of litigation. Whether in summary judgment proceedings or during trial, the ultimate issue under either Civ.R. 56 or 50 is whether the evidence is sufficient to present an issue for determination by the trier of fact. Summary judgment raises this question prior to trial; directed verdict raises the question during trial. A court does not consider the weight of the evidence or credibility of the witnesses in ruling on either a motion for summary judgment under Civ.R. 56, or in ruling on a motion for directed verdict under Civ.R. 50. Turner v. Turner (1993), 67 Ohio St.3d 337, [*36] 1993 Ohio 176, 617 N.E.2d 1123; Strother v. Hutchinson (1981), 67 Ohio St.2d 282, 423 N.E.2d 467. 2 The question is whether there is sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue for a jury to decide.

2 Appellants point out that, at trial, during discussions of the court and counsel on the question of directing a verdict, the court commented on the credibility of the testimony of a witness and noted reactions of the faces of the jurors during testimony. However, when the comments are viewed in the context of the discussion between court and counsel, we are satisfied that the comments were not a factor in the determination to grant a directed verdict.

[**P17] Where a motion for summary judgment is denied because the evidence demonstrates that a jury issue exists, and that same evidence is later presented at trial, logically, it would appear that the same result should obtain and a motion for directed verdict should be overruled. 3 However, the result of the first assignment of error is not dictated by a pre-trial decision on summary judgment or by whether the same or additional [***1262] evidence was available at trial. Instead, the ultimate issue presented by the first assignment of error is whether the trial court was correct in granting a directed verdict at the close of appellants’ case. As discussed from the evidence presented at trial, we find that reasonable minds could come to but one conclusion upon the evidence and that conclusion is that Bennett did not act recklessly during the fun skate relay race.

3 Compare Dupler v. Mansfield Journal Co., Inc. (1980), 64 Ohio St. 2d 116, at 126, 413 N.E.2d 1187, fn. 8, Brown, J., Concurring. “The same quantum of evidence can require that a motion for summary judgment be denied under Civ.R. 56(C) because there exists ‘a genuine issue as to * * * (a) material fact,’ and that a motion for directed verdict under Civ.R. 50(A)(4) be granted because ‘reasonable minds could come to but one conclusion upon the evidence.’ ”

[**P18] Appellants’ claim that Bennett acted recklessly arises from the relay race itself and what appellants feel were the violation of a posted rule that prohibited racing. Based on the evidence presented in the proceedings for summary judgment, the trial court determined that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether Bennett was reckless in organizing the relay race and in permitting Jamie to participate without a helmet. 4 The trial court determined that there was a genuine issue of whether Bennett acted recklessly based primarily upon two factors; the sign at the ice rink that prohibited racing and the lack of helmets for the participants.

4 While the evidence on whether Bennett organized the relay race was in conflict, we must construe that evidence in the light most favorable to appellants and therefore assume that Bennett did organize the race.

[**P19] [HN10] Ohio has adopted the definition of recklessness contained in the Restatement of the Law 2d, Torts (1965), Section 500 . Marchetti, 96, at fn. 2: [*37]

The actor’s conduct is in reckless disregard of the safety of another if he does an act or intentionally fails to do an act which it is his duty to the other to do, knowing or having reason to know of facts which would lead a reasonable man to realize, not only that his conduct creates an unreasonable risk of physical harm to another, but also that such risk is substantially greater than that which is necessary to make his conduct negligent.

Furthermore, the Restatement notes that [HN11] simply violating a statute or rule is not enough to constitute a reckless disregard for safety. The violation of the rule must (1) be intentional; and (2) be recognized as resulting in a significantly higher risk that serious harm will occur. Id. at Section 500(e). A plaintiff cannot recover from any injuries that stemmed from “conduct that is a foreseeable, customary part” of the activity in which the plaintiff was injured. Thompson v. McNeill (1990), 53 Ohio St.3d 102, 104, 559 N.E.2d 705.

[**P20] Turning to the facts of this case, the question presented is whether Bennett was reckless in organizing the relay race in which Jamie was injured. More specifically, did Jaime’s injury stem from conduct-the relay race-that was a foreseeable part of the activity? We have already determined that Jamie assumed the risk of falling or coming into contact with the perimeter boards and injuring himself when he began skating and again when he voluntarily took part in the relay race. To be considered reckless, Bennett’s conduct in organizing the fun skate relay race had to create an unreasonable risk of physical harm to another; a risk substantially greater than that which is necessary to make that conduct negligent.

[**P21] From trial testimony and evidence, we know that there is a sign posted in the Chiller that prohibits racing. Warren Weber, the building supervisor at the time of Jamie’s accident, stated that the “no racing” rule applied to both public and private skating events. However, Weber also testified that the rule was relaxed during private parties. He further stated that even if the private party did not have [***1263] rink guards, “[w]e would never knowingly allow an unsafe condition. I think our employees knew what unsafe and safe were or were not and would not allow an unsafe condition to go on.” (Tr. at 79.) Weber said that if he saw individuals racing from board to board, he would take into account the ability of the skaters in determining whether the activity was safe enough to continue. Weber testified that, at the time of the fun skate, there were other people working at the Chiller, even though they were not working as rink guards for the fun skate. There was no evidence that anyone on duty at the time of the accident thought the activities were unsafe. Indeed, Richard Pretzloff, a Chiller employee and father of one of the Cub Scouts attending the fun skate was present during the relay races. Pretzloff testified that he allowed his own son to participate in the relay race.

[**P22] [*38] Additionally, it is undisputed that Bennett took certain precautions when she initiated the relay race. Bennett organized the activity and divided up the ice because the more skilled skaters were being disruptive and posed a threat of harm to parents and children who were not as proficient at ice-skating. Furthermore, only those of certain skill levels were allowed to participate in the races. Bennett set the rules and supervised the first race. According to her testimony, there was no evidence of dangerous activity. After the first race, she left the immediate area and left Mr. Pretzloff in charge of the second race. Even if events in the second race increased the risk of harm, there is no evidence that Bennett was aware of them, or that she allowed the races to continue despite some increased risk to the participants. In sum, we cannot say that Bennett’s conduct in organizing the relay race was in reckless disregard of the safety of another.

[**P23] Appellants further argue that Bennett was reckless in not requiring Jamie to wear a helmet. No evidence was submitted to support this claim. Jamie’s father testified that he allowed his son to participate in the recreational skate without a helmet. Other testimony presented at trial showed that no fun skate participants were wearing helmets and that helmets are typically worn only while playing hockey. Finally, there was evidence that requiring helmets is not an industry standard.

[**P24] We find that, as a matter of law, the evidence does not support a claim of recklessness regardless of how generously it may be viewed in favor of appellants. Therefore, the trial court did not err in granting a directed verdict for Bennett on the issue of recklessness. Appellants’ first assignment of error is not well-taken and is overruled.

[**P25] Under their second assignment of error, appellants contest the trial court’s determination on summary judgment that BSA, SKC, POPLC, and the Chiller were not vicariously liable for Bennett’s reckless acts because she was not an agent of those organizations. Because we have found as a matter of law that Bennett did not act recklessly, this argument has been rendered moot.

[**P26] Even if the evidence supported a finding that Bennett was reckless, under the facts of this case, BSA, SKC and POPLC were not vicariously liable because the evidence supports the trial court’s determination that Bennett was not an agent of those organizations. Appellants rely on Mayfield v. Boy Scouts of America (1994), 95 Ohio App.3d 655, 643 N.E.2d 565, a case involving injuries to a scout while on a camping trip under the direction of a Boy Scout volunteer. In Mayfield, the campout was at a facility controlled and operated by the Boy Scouts [***1264] and located on land owned by the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts required all volunteers who were in charge of campouts to purchase and wear official Boy Scout uniforms, accessories and supplies and to follow Boy Scouts [*39] policies, procedures, rules and regulations. Additionally, in Mayfield, there was evidence that the Boy Scouts retained a degree of direction and control over the volunteer who supervised the campout and Boy Scout insurance policies covered the acts of the volunteer. Finally, in that case, there was evidence that the plaintiffs relied upon the affirmative acts and representations of the Boy Scouts, which led the plaintiffs to believe that the volunteer was acting as an agent of the Boy Scouts.

[**P27] In contrast, there is no evidence to suggest that Bennett was acting as the agent of the BSA, SKC or POPLC. Bennett organized the family fun skate outside the framework of the BSA organization. The fun skate was held at a facility completely independent of the BSA. There is no evidence that the BSA, SKC or POPLC were aware of or had any control over the conduct of either Bennett or the fun skate. There is no evidence that Bennett acted as an agent of the Boy Scouts or any of the other organizations. We find Mayfield to be distinguishable on it facts.

[**P28] Appellants also argue that the Chiller is liable for Bennett’s actions under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Appellants contend that, because Bennett was an employee of the Chiller, the Chiller was liable for her actions committed during the course and scope of her employment with the Chiller. However, at the time of the accident, Bennett was not being paid by the Chiller. [HN12] Actions within the “course of employment” are, by definition:

Events that occur or circumstances that exist as a part of one’s employment; esp., the time during which an employee furthers an employer’s goals through employer-mandated directives.

Black’s Law Dictionary (7 Ed.1999) 356. Bennett’s employment duties as a director of ice-skating at the Chiller consisted of training instructors and scheduling. She also gave private skating lessons. However, all of these activities were directed by the Chiller, by whom she was paid. At the time of the fun skate, Bennett was not being paid by the Chiller. She was not acting as a rink guard. According to the evidence presented by the trial court, rink guards wore distinctive clothing that identified them in that capacity. There is no evidence that Bennett was acting as, or held herself out as a rink guard for the Chiller. Instead, the evidence supports only that Bennett was acting as a den mother of Pack 210 and organized the fun skate for Pack 210. She was there as a volunteer for Pack 210 and as a parent. Therefore, the trial court did not err in finding that there was insufficient evidence to show that Bennett was an agent of the Chiller and acting on behalf of the Chiller at the time Jamie was injured. 5 Appellants’ second assignment of error is not well-taken and is overruled.

5 Weber indicated that anywhere from four to ten people could have been working during the fun skate. The fun skate was not held as an after hours event. If it were, there would be some argument as to whether Bennett was an agent of the Chiller by virtue of being the only employee of the Chiller in the building, aside from Richard Pretzloff. However, this was not the case.

[**P29] [*40] In their fourth assignment of error, appellants contend that Gentry is a violation of Sections 5 and 16, Article I, Ohio Constitution. Appellants assert that, by relying on Gentry, the trial court violated their right [***1265] to trial by jury and a remedy by due course of law. Gentry is a decision of the Supreme Court of Ohio. [HN13] It is not within our authority to declare that a determination of a superior court is invalid.

[**P30] Furthermore, appellants failed to raise this issue at the trial court. Therefore, the issue has been waived for purposes of appeal. “It is a general rule that [HN14] an appellate court will not consider any error which counsel for a party complaining of the trial court’s judgment could have called but did not call to the trial court’s attention at a time when such error could have been avoided or corrected by the trial court.” State v. Childs (1968), 14 Ohio St.2d 56, 61, 236 N.E.2d 545 citing State v. Glaros (1960), 170 Ohio St. 471, 166 N.E.2d 379, paragraph one of syllabus. Appellants’ fourth assignment of error is overruled.

[**P31] Based upon the foregoing, appellants’ four assignments of error are overruled and the judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas is affirmed.

Judgment affirmed.

BROWN and SADLER, JJ., concur.


Summer 2016 Commercial Fatalities

This list is not guaranteed to be accurate. The information is found from web searches and news dispatches. Those references are part of the chart. If you have a source for information on any fatality please leave a comment or contact me. Thank you.

If this information is incorrect or incomplete please let me know.  This is up to date as of July 20, 2016. Thanks.

Rafting, Mountaineering, Skiing out of bounds and other sports are probably still safer than your kitchen or bathroom. This information is not to scare you away from any activity but to help you understand the risks and to study.

Red is a probable death due to medical issues unrelated to the activity

Blue is an employee fatality

Dark blue is a death of an employee while working

Date

Activity

State

Location

What

Age

Sex

Location 2

Reference

Ref 2

Company

3/22

Cat Skiing

OR

Mt. Bailey

Avalanche hit tree

 

M

 

http://rec-law.us/1XSFbT7

 

Cat Ski Mount Bailey

5/4

Whitewater Rafting

WA

Wenatchee River

Raft Flipped

53

M

Dryden

http://rec-law.us/1TuBuzC

 

Orion River

 

Whitewater Rafting

ME

Dead River

Fell out

52

M

 

http://rec-law.us/22B3zeY

http://rec-law.us/1U0HrbU

North Country Rivers

5/22

Whitewater Rafting

CO

Arkansas River

Fell out

61

F

Parkdale

http://rec-law.us/1r4zOp3

http://rec-law.us/1O75mWC

Echo Canyon River Expeditions

6/4

Whitewater Rafting

AK

Lowe River

Fell out

48

F

 

http://rec-law.us/1Yemxbd

 

 

6/15

Whitewater Rafting

CO

Roaring Fork

Flip

50

M

Slaughterhouse section

http://rec-law.us/1WOcnyo

http://rec-law.us/1UkzCwI

Aspen Whitewater Rafting

6/15

Whitewater Rafting

AK

Kongakut River

Flip

69

F

 

http://rec-law.us/1UU3Ma6

http://rec-law.us/1UC2MZv

Alaska Alpine Adventures

6/15

Whitewater Rafting

AK

Kongakut River

Flip

67

F

 

http://rec-law.us/1UU3Ma6

http://rec-law.us/1UC2MZv

Alaska Alpine Adventures

6/22

Sea Kayaking

ME

Downeast Maine

High Seas

63

M

Corea Harbor

http://rec-law.us/28RNpuw

 

SeaScape Kayaks

6/22

Sea Kayaking

ME

Downeast Maine

High Seas

 

M

Corea Harbor

http://rec-law.us/28RNpuw

 

SeaScape Kayaks

6/24/16

Whitewater Rafting

CO

Green River

 

63

F

Disaster Falls

http://rec-law.us/295dJ7a

http://rec-law.us/290uTwS

Adrift Adventures

7/2/16

Whitewater Rafting

CO

Arkansas River

Fell out

51

F

Zoom Flume

http://rec-law.us/29h5oxj

http://rec-law.us/29hYin3

River Runners

7/17

Inflatable Kayak

OR

Rogue River

Fell out & trapped unwater

57

M

Wildcat Rapid

http://rec-law.us/2a9iiKF

 

 

7/21

Canoe Trip

MN

Boundary Waters

Lighting Strike

39

F

Basswood Lake

http://rec-law.us/29X5ve3

http://rec-law.us/2a1jHUx

BSA Northern Tier High Adventure Base

7/21

Canoe Trip

MN

Boundary Waters

Lighting Strike

13

M

Basswood Lake

http://rec-law.us/29X5ve3

http://rec-law.us/2a1jHUx

BSA Northern Tier High Adventure Base

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like a PDF of this chart please click here.

Our condolences go to the families of the deceased. Our thoughts extend to the families and staff at the areas who have to deal with these tragedies.

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Before a meeting a volunteer leader has no duty to protect the youth. Besides kids throw snowballs.

If there is snow, then there will be snowball fights.

Citation: Alvero v. Allen, Jr., 262 A.D.2d 434; 692 N.Y.S.2d 116; 1999 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6634

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

Year: 1999

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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Author: Outdoor Recreation Insurance, Risk Management and Law

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Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law

Blog: www.recreation-law.com

Mobile Site: http://m.recreation-law.com

By Recreation Law           Rec-law@recreation-law.com     James H. Moss

 

 

#AdventureTourism, #AdventureTravelLaw, #AdventureTravelLawyer, #AttorneyatLaw, #Backpacking, #BicyclingLaw, #Camps, #ChallengeCourse, #ChallengeCourseLaw, #ChallengeCourseLawyer, #CyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #FitnessLawyer, #Hiking, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation, #IceClimbing, #JamesHMoss, #JimMoss, #Law, #Mountaineering, #Negligence, #OutdoorLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #OutsideLaw, #OutsideLawyer, #RecLaw, #Rec-Law, #RecLawBlog, #Rec-LawBlog, #RecLawyer, #RecreationalLawyer, #RecreationLaw, #RecreationLawBlog, #RecreationLawcom, #Recreation-Lawcom, #Recreation-Law.com, #RiskManagement, #RockClimbing, #RockClimbingLawyer, #RopesCourse, #RopesCourseLawyer, #SkiAreas, #Skiing, #SkiLaw, #Snowboarding, #SummerCamp, #Tourism, #TravelLaw, #YouthCamps, #ZipLineLawyer, Boy Scouts, Scout, Scoutmaster Snowball, Snowball fight, negligent supervision, parental control, Boy Scouts of America, Scout meeting,

 


Alvero v. Allen, Jr., 262 A.D.2d 434; 692 N.Y.S.2d 116; 1999 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6634

Alvero v. Allen, Jr., 262 A.D.2d 434; 692 N.Y.S.2d 116; 1999 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6634

Martin Alvero, Respondent, v. James W. Allen, Jr., Appellant.

98-06867

SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, SECOND DEPARTMENT

262 A.D.2d 434; 692 N.Y.S.2d 116; 1999 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6634

April 26, 1999, Argued

June 14, 1999, Decided

COUNSEL: Montfort, Healy, McGuire & Salley, Garden City, N.Y. (Edward R. Rimmels of counsel), for appellant.

Siben & Siben, LLP, Bay Shore, N.Y. (Alan G. Faber and Gerald I. Friedman of counsel), for respondent.

JUDGES: Bracken, J. P., Thompson, Sullivan and Friedmann, JJ., concur.

OPINION

[*434] [**117] Ordered that the order is reversed, on the law, with costs, that branch of the motion which was for summary judgment is granted, and the complaint is dismissed.

The infant plaintiff was hit on the head with what he described as an “ice ball” while he and several other Boy Scouts were waiting outside a church in which the weekly meeting of [*435] their Boy Scout troop was scheduled to begin. At a deposition given in connection with a separate action commenced against another entity, the infant plaintiff [***2] stated that he had not seen anyone throw anything prior to the time he was hit. He responded affirmatively when asked whether the “ice ball” with which he was struck, and which had apparently been thrown by another Boy Scout, was “the first thing that was thrown during the whole time from when you got to the church up until you got hit”.

The defendant in the present action is the Boy Scout troop leader who was to be in charge of the meeting. According to his affidavit, he was informed upon his arrival at the church that the infant plaintiff had already been injured. According to the affidavit of the infant plaintiff, on the other hand, the defendant had arrived prior to the incident, had entered the building, and had refused to allow the infant plaintiff to follow him inside. The Supreme Court denied the branch of the defendant’s motion which was premised on CPLR 3211, and denied that branch of the motion as was premised on CPLR 3212, holding that such an application was premature prior to the joinder of issue. We reverse.

The parties clearly laid bare their proof, and treated the motion as one for summary judgment. The [***3] Supreme Court was therefore authorized to treat the pre-answer application pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (7) as one for summary judgment (see, CPLR 3211 [c]; see, e.g., MacDonald v Prudential Sec., 247 AD2d 346; Palazolo v Palazolo, 244 AD2d 393; Gelmin v Quicke, 224 AD2d 481).

Turning to the merits, it is clear that the defendant cannot be held liable based on allegations of inadequate supervision under the facts as outlined above. As the Court of Appeals stated in Lawes v Board of Educ. (16 NY2d 302, 304), “[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”.

[**118] Given the absence of proof that the defendant in the present case had notice of an ongoing and potentially dangerous snowball [***4] fight, the plaintiff may not prevail on a theory of inadequate supervision (see also, Johnsen v Cold Spring Harbor Cent. School Dist., 251 AD2d 548; Kennedy v Seaford Union Free School Dist. No. 6, 250 AD2d 574). This conclusion is [*436] 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. 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 (see generally, Phillipe v City of New York Bd. of Educ., 254 AD2d 339 [school has no duty of supervision prior to starting of school day]). For these reasons, the defendant was entitled to summary judgment.

Bracken, J. P., Thompson, Sullivan and Friedmann, JJ., concur.


US Army and BSA not liable for injured kids on Army base. No control by the BSA and recreational use defense by US Army.

Agency requires more than just relationship; it requires actual control over the alleged agents.

Wilson v. United States, 989 F.2d 953; 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 6165, (8th Cir. 1993)

State: Missouri, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Plaintiff: Mark D. Wilson; Janet L. Wilson, Jason S. Harbian; Michael Harbian; Sharon Harbian; Daniel R. Winfrey, a Minor, by Susan Crump, his Mother and Next Friend, and; Susan Crump

Defendant: United States of America; the Boy Scouts of America

Plaintiff Claims: Federal Tort Claims Act, and against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) pursuant to Missouri state law, for negligent supervision and failure to train the adult supervisors

Defendant Defenses: No relationship between the BSA and the adult volunteers and the Missouri Recreational Use Statute

Holding: for the Defendant

Year: 1993

A group of Boy Scouts and their adult leaders were at Fort Leonard Wood, a US Army military post for the weekend to participate in the Army’s Youth Tour Program. The boys and adults stayed in a barrack. Stacked beside the barrack were aluminum alloy irrigation pipes that were approximately 30’ long. The pipes were stacked there when not in use for six years.

Three of the boys grabbed one of the pipes and carried it 20’ west of the building and raised it to a vertical position. It came in contact with a high-voltage line injuring two boys and killing one.

Because one of the defendants was the United States, as the owner of the land and property under the supervision and control of the US Army, the case was brought in the Federal District Court of Missouri for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The trial court dismissed the claims of all plaintiffs because of the Missouri recreational use act for the defendant US Army, and the BSA did not owe the plaintiff’s a duty of care. The plaintiff’s appealed.

Analysis

To sue an agency of the United States, your claims must meet the requirements of the Federal Tort Claims Act. The act allows the defendant to assert any defense allowed under the act and as allowed under the law of the state where the incident occurred.

In this case, the defendant US raised the defense provided by the Missouri Recreational Land Use Statute, Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 537.345 – 537.348. The act provides immunity to landowners who make their property available for recreation without an entry charge.

Except as provided in sections 537.345 to 537.348, an owner of land owes no duty of care to any person who enters on the land without charge to keep his land safe for recreational use or to give any general or specific warning with respect to any natural or artificial condition, structure, or personal property thereon.

Recreational use is defined by the act as “hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, biking, nature study [and] winter sports.”

The immunity is available unless the landowner is:

…found to have been either maliciously or grossly negligent in failing to guard or warn against a dangerous condition which the owner knew or should have known to be dangerous, or if the landowner negligently failed to warn or guard against an ultrahazardous condition. Other exceptions to the nonliability of the statute include injuries occurring on or in any “noncovered land,” which is defined as land used primarily for commercial, industrial or manufacturing purposes.

The Army charged $2.00 per person to say in the building. The plaintiff’s argued that the recreational use act then did not apply to the defendant US Army.

1) the Army charged $ 2.00 per person to be billeted in Building 1614; (2) the United States receives an economic benefit from offering its land; (3) the Boy Scouts were not members of the “general public,” and thus were not covered by the Act; (4) the injury occurred on “noncovered land;” and (5) the United States negligently failed to protect against an ultrahazardous condition.

The Fort was called an open military post. That means that members of the public were allowed to visit the post. The post was open to the public for “fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, picnicking or canoeing.” The Fort also offered the Youth Tour Program which allowed national youth organizations such as the BSA special programs not available to the general public. These programs included “visits to the Fort’s museum, an indoor rifle range, an obstacle course and a cannon range.”

If the youth group or in this case, the BSA, want to spend the night, the Army charges a $2.00 per person fee.

This fee covers the cost of maintaining and equipping the facility with mattresses, toilet paper, soap, and other supplies. If a troop chooses to stay overnight but no beds are available, the lodging fee is reduced to $ 1.00 per person/per night.

The application of the Missouri Recreational Use Statute, construes fees in the act as defined to enter upon the land. The $2.00 fee was paid to stay overnight in the building, entrance onto the base was free.

There is no evidence in the record to indicate that this fee would have been charged to either participate in the Youth Tour Program, or to enter Fort Leonard Wood, if the scouts had elected not to stay overnight. In fact, all the Fort Leonard Wood documents relating to this fee provide that it is a “lodging” fee, and that it is assessed on a per person/per night basis.

The remaining arguments presented by the plaintiffs were quickly dismissed by the court in a paragraph for each argument.

The court then turned to the claims against the Boy Scouts of America. In order to hold the National Council of the BSA liable for the acts of the volunteer adult leaders in Missouri, the plaintiff has to prove an agency relationship existed between the BSA and the adults. This would allow the plaintiff’s to argue a vicarious liability claim against the BSA.  

The appellants claim the BSA had the right to control and supervise Troop 392’s adults, that the BSA is liable for the negligent acts of the troop’s adult leaders which were committed within the scope and course of their agency relationship, and further that the troop’s adult leaders were clothed with implied and apparent authority to act on behalf of the BSA when they were present at Fort Leonard Wood.

The court then accurately related the legal relationship between the BSA national office and volunteers of a unit.

The Boy Scouts of America is a congressionally chartered benevolent national organization, which is divided into geographic areas known as local councils. Three hundred ninety-eight local councils are chartered in the United States. Local sponsors, such as schools, churches or civic organizations apply for charters from the BSA through their local council. Local volunteers form a patrol leaders’ council to plan troop activities. BSA does not conduct or require any training for these adult volunteers. Troops do not need permission from BSA before participating in activities, with the exception of tours outside the United States or five hundred miles or more from the local council. The BSA had no advanced notice of Troop 392’s trip to Fort Leonard Wood. The troop was not required, nor did it receive, permission from the BSA to go to Fort Leonard Wood.

The court then examined the requirements of respondeat superior, needed to hold an employer liable for the acts of an employee.

Liability based on respondeat superior requires some evidence that a master-servant relationship existed between the parties. The test to determine if respondeat superior applies is whether the person sought to be charged as a master had “the right or power to control and direct the physical conduct of the other in the performance of the act.” If there is no right to control, there is no liability.

The plaintiff failed to produce any evidence that the BSA national council has any control over the “specific activities of individual troops, or that it had a duty to control, supervise or train volunteer leaders for the Fort Leonard Wood activity.”

The appellate court upheld the lower court’s dismissal of the case.

So Now What?

This is another situation where the recreational use statute has been parsed by how the many paid were used by the landowner. Money paid to enter the land does not allow the landowner to use the defense of the state recreational use statute. Money paid for other things once on the land may still allow the use of the statute as a defense.

However, this is a narrow reading of the law and would be specific to each state law. Make sure you have consulted with a local attorney familiar with the law before making this decision to charge for other items.

The Boy Scouts of America do not supervise, control or have any power or authority over its volunteers.

 

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Wilson v. United States of America, 989 F.2d 953; 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 6165

Wilson v. United States of America, 989 F.2d 953; 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 6165

Mark D. Wilson; Janet L. Wilson, Appellants, v. United States of America; The Boy Scouts of America, Appellees. Mark D. Wilson; Janet L. Wilson, Plaintiffs, v. The Boy Scouts of America, Defendants. Jason S. Harbian; Michael Harbian; Sharon Harbian; Daniel R. Winfrey, a Minor, by Susan Crump, his Mother and Next Friend, and; Susan Crump, Appellants, v. United States of America; The Boy Scouts of America, Appellees.

No. 92-1438, No. 92-3363

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

989 F.2d 953; 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 6165

September 18, 1992, Submitted

March 29, 1993, Filed

SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: [**1] Rehearing Denied May 10, 1993, Reported at: 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 10903.

PRIOR HISTORY: Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. District No. 89-1696-C-7. Jean C. Hamilton, U.S. District Judge.

DISPOSITION: Affirmed

CASE SUMMARY:

COUNSEL: For MARK D. WILSON, JANET L. WILSON, Plaintiffs – Appellants: Alan E. DeWoskin, 314-727-6330, Suite 426, 225 S. Meramec Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63105.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant – Appellee: Joseph Moore, Asst. U.S. Attorney, 314-539-3280, U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, 1114 Market Street, St. Louis, MO 63101. Robert William Cockerham, BROWN & JAMES, 705 Olive Street, Suite 1100, St. Louis, MO 63101, 314-421-3400. For BOY SCOUTS, OF AMERICA, Defendants – Appellees: Russell F. Watters, Robert William Cockerham, Thomas Michael Ward, BROWN & JAMES, 705 Olive Street, Suite 1100, St. Louis, MO 63101, 314-421-3400.

JUDGES: Before HANSEN, Circuit Judge, and HEANEY and ROSS, Senior Circuit Judges.

OPINION BY: ROSS

OPINION

[*954] ROSS, Senior Circuit Judge.

Appellants Mark Wilson and Janet Wilson, the parents of Anthony Wilson, and [*955] Jason Harbian and Daniel Winfrey, and their parents, appeal from the trial court’s 1 grant of summary judgment in favor of appellees United States of America and the Boy Scouts of America, in an action arising out of the death of Anthony Wilson and the injuries sustained by Jason Harbian and Daniel Winfrey.

1 The Honorable Jean C. Hamilton, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri.

On April 22, 1988, Anthony Wilson, Daniel Winfrey and Jason Harbian, members of Troop 392 of the Boy Scouts of America, St. Louis Area Council, along with other boy scouts and five adult leaders, went to Fort Leonard Wood, a United States Army military post, on a boy scout trip as part of the Army’s Youth Tour Program. A pile of lightweight aluminum [**2] alloy irrigation pipes, approximately thirty feet in length, were stacked outside Building 1614, where the troop was billeted for the weekend. The pipes had been used for irrigation of the athletic field adjacent to the building, and when not in use, were stored alongside the building. The pipes had been stacked in this manner for approximately six years.

On the second night of their weekend stay, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Anthony, age thirteen, and five or six other scouts, ages twelve to sixteen, were outside Building 1614, while the leaders were inside the building. Anthony, Daniel and Jason picked up one of the aluminum pipes, carried it approximately twenty feet west of the building, and raised it to a near vertical position, causing the pipe to come in contact with a 7,200 volt power line which ran over the building. All three scouts received electric shocks; Anthony died as a result of the injuries he sustained.

Mark and Janet Wilson brought a wrongful death action against the United States pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, and against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) pursuant to Missouri state law, for negligent supervision and failure to train the adult supervisors. [**3] Sometime later the Harbian/Winfrey plaintiffs filed personal injury actions against both the United States and the BSA, and eventually these cases were consolidated with the Wilson case for trial. Motions for summary judgment filed by the United States and the BSA were eventually granted as against all appellants. 2

2 On December 4, 1992, following oral argument of the Wilson appeal before this court, the Harbian and Winfrey cases were consolidated with the Wilson appeal. All parties agree that these cases arose from the same occurrence and are identical in material fact and law. The Harbians and the Winfreys rely on the briefs and oral argument submitted in the Wilson appeal. The Wilsons, Harbians and Winfreys will be collectively referred to as “appellants.”

The appellants’ theory of recovery against the BSA is based on an alleged agency relationship between the BSA and the adult volunteers supervising the scouts. The district court granted the BSA’s motion for summary judgment, concluding [**4] that appellants failed to produce any evidence that the national organization of the BSA had a duty to control, supervise or train volunteer leaders for the Fort Leonard Wood activity. The district court also granted the United States’ motion for summary judgment based on its finding that the United States owed no duty of care to the scouts because they were recreational users of the property under Missouri’s Recreational Land Use Statute. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.346. After careful consideration of each allegation raised by the appellants, we affirm the decision of the district court.

I. United States of America

The action against the United States arises [HN1] under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671-2680, thus, the “United States shall be liable . . . in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.” Id. at § 2674. Further, the United States is “entitled to assert any defense based upon judicial or legislative immunity which otherwise would have been available to the employee of the United States . . . as well as any other defenses to which the United States is entitled.” [**5] Id. Therefore, the United States is entitled to [*956] the benefit of state recreational use statutes, if applicable, when it is sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act. See Hegg v. United States, 817 F.2d 1328, 1329 (8th Cir. 1987) (construing the Iowa Recreational Use Statute); Umpleby v. United States, 806 F.2d 812, 815 (8th Cir. 1986) (applying North Dakota’s Recreational Use Statute).

[HN2] The Missouri Recreational Land Use Statute, Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 537.345 – 537.348 immunizes landowners who make their property available for the recreational use of others without an entry charge. The statute specifically provides:

[HN3] Except as provided in sections 537.345 to 537.348, an owner of land owes no duty of care to any person who enters on the land without charge to keep his land safe for recreational use or to give any general or specific warning with respect to any natural or artificial condition, structure, or personal property thereon.

Id. at § 537.346. “Charge” is defined in the statute as:

[HN4] the admission price or fee asked by an owner of land or an invitation or permission without price or fee to use land for recreational [**6] purposes when such invitation or permission is given for the purpose of sales promotion, advertising or public goodwill in fostering business purposes.

Id. at § 537.345(1). “Recreational use” as defined in the statute includes outdoor activities, such as “hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, biking, nature study [and] winter sports. Id. at § 537.345(4).

[HN5] While providing for a general immunity against liability, a landowner may nonetheless be liable if found to have been either maliciously or grossly negligent in failing to guard or warn against a dangerous condition which the owner knew or should have known to be dangerous, or if the landowner negligently failed to warn or guard against an ultrahazardous condition. Id. at § 537.348(1). Other exceptions to the nonliability of the statute include injuries occurring on or in any “noncovered land,” which is defined as land used primarily for commercial, industrial or manufacturing purposes. Id. at § 537.348(3)(d).

The appellants contend that the Missouri Recreational Land Use Statute does not apply to the United States because (1) the Army charged $ 2.00 per person to be billeted in Building 1614; (2) the United States [**7] receives an economic benefit from offering its land; (3) the Boy Scouts were not members of the “general public,” and thus were not covered by the Act; (4) the injury occurred on “noncovered land;” and (5) the United States negligently failed to protect against an ultrahazardous condition.

A.

Fort Leonard Wood is an open military post, where members of the public can freely enter without being stopped or questioned by guards or military police. Specified areas are open to the public for fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, picnicking or canoeing. Many tours are given to various groups, such as senior citizens and church and school groups, free of charge. The Fort also offers a Youth Tour Program which is open only to national youth organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America. The program includes activities which are not available to the general public, such as visits to the Fort’s museum, an indoor rifle range, an obstacle course and a cannon range.

If a troop in the Youth Tour Program chooses to stay overnight in Building 1614, a $ 2.00 per person/per night lodging fee is charged. This fee covers the cost of maintaining and equipping the facility with mattresses, toilet paper, [**8] soap, and other supplies. If a troop chooses to stay overnight but no beds are available, the lodging fee is reduced to $ 1.00 per person/per night. Significantly, the lodging fee is charged on a per person/per night basis, while there is no charge for the tour itself, which is offered only on Saturdays.

The interpretation of the various recreational use statutes is controlled by the precise language of each statute. Courts that have construed recreational land use statutes with language similar to the Missouri statute have interpreted “charge” as ” [*957] an admission fee to enter the land.” For example, in Genco v. Connecticut Light and Power Co., 7 Conn. App. 164, 508 A.2d 58, 62 (Conn. App. Ct. 1986), noting that the Connecticut General Statute § 52-557f defines “charge” as “the admission price or fee asked in return for invitation or permission to enter or go upon the land,” the court held that “the only way to avoid inconsistent application of the Act . . . is to interpret the word ‘charge’ as an actual admission price paid for permission to enter the land at the time of its use for recreational purposes.” Id. (emphasis added).

Furthermore, a parking fee paid by [**9] a camper is not a charge within the meaning of the Nebraska Recreational Use Statute, which defines “charge” as “the amount of money asked in return for an invitation to enter or go upon the land.” Garreans v. City of Omaha, 216 Neb. 487, 345 N.W.2d 309, 313 (Neb. 1984) (emphasis added). In Garreans, the court noted that the

charges were made for the right to park a camper on a pad, for the right to pitch a tent in a tent camping area, and for the use of camper dumping facilities. Payment of the fee . . . did not entitle . . . [the person paying the fee] to a greater right to use any of the park’s other facilities than that had by the general public.

Id.

As in Jones v. United States, 693 F.2d 1299, 1303 (9th Cir. 1982), where a one dollar fee was charged the injured plaintiff to rent an inner tube for snow sliding, the fee paid by the scouts to bunk in Building 1614 was not “charged to members of the public for entry on to the land or for use of the land.” Id. Rather, the scouts paid the $ 2.00 fee to bunk in Building 1614, but entered the park without paying a fee. The Jones court held that the plaintiff [**10] “could have used . . . the Park without making any payment if she had brought her own tube.” Id. Similarly, the appellants could have used Fort Leonard Wood without making this $ 2.00 payment if they had chosen not to stay overnight. The Missouri statute does not provide that the immunity for an entire parcel should be nullified if a landowner charges for admission to a different portion of the parcel, nor would such a rule be consistent with the statute’s purpose. “Consideration should not be deemed given . . . unless it is a charge necessary to utilize the overall benefits of a recreational area so that it may be regarded as an entrance or admission fee.” Moss v. Department of Natural Resources, 62 Ohio St. 2d 138, 404 N.E.2d 742, 745 (Ohio 1980) (emphasis added).

The appellants herein paid $ 2.00 per night for the right to stay overnight in Building 1614. There is no evidence in the record to indicate that this fee would have been charged to either participate in the Youth Tour Program, or to enter Fort Leonard Wood, if the scouts had elected not to stay overnight. In fact, all of the Fort Leonard Wood documents relating to this fee provide that it is a “lodging” [**11] fee and that it is assessed on a per person/per night basis. The appellants have failed to present any evidence that the fee was required in order to enter Fort Leonard Wood.

B.

The remainder of appellants’ arguments with regard to the liability of the United States are also without merit. The appellants contend that the United States is outside the protection of the Missouri Recreational Land Use Statute because the scouts are not “members of the general public.” They contend that because only members of national youth organizations are eligible to participate in the Youth Tour Program, the scouts should be treated as guests or invitees. Appellants’ argument, however, relies upon a distinction not made within the language of the Missouri Recreational Land Use Statute. The plain language of the statute indicates that a landowner owes no duty of care “to any person who enters on the land without charge” for recreational purposes. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.346 (emphasis added).

We also reject the appellants’ argument that the United States is outside the protection of the Missouri statute because the Army’s purpose in allowing admission to Fort Leonard Wood is to develop public [*958] goodwill [**12] in fostering a business purpose. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.345(1). When Boy Scout troops visit the Fort, they are not recruited or encouraged in any way to join the Army, nor are any records kept of scouts who have participated in the Youth Tour Program. Further, appellants have failed to establish that the Army operates as a business within the intended meaning of the statute.

Finally, appellants’ argument that Building 1614 was essentially a commercial “hotel” located in a “populated, residential area,” and therefore falls within the “noncovered land” exception of section 537.348(3)(d) is without merit. The record does not support appellants’ contention that the Fort was “predominately used for residential purposes,” nor that Building 1614 was operated as a commercial enterprise. Nor can we accept appellants’ argument that the United States acted with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of the troops or negligently failed to protect them against an ultrahazardous condition. There simply has been no evidence presented to establish either of these theories.

The judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the United States is affirmed.

II. Boy [**13] Scouts of America

The appellants also challenge the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Boy Scouts of America. The appellants contend there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether an agency relationship existed between the BSA and the adult volunteers of Troop 392 so as to provide for vicarious liability for any negligence on the part of the adult leaders. The appellants claim the BSA had the right to control and supervise Troop 392’s adults, that the BSA is liable for the negligent acts of the troop’s adult leaders which were committed within the scope and course of their agency relationship, and further that the troop’s adult leaders were clothed with implied and apparent authority to act on behalf of the BSA when they were present at Fort Leonard Wood.

The appellants first argue that the district court improperly considered the affidavit of Lloyd Roitstein, Area Director in the North Central Region of the Boy Scouts of America, in considering the relationship between the national organization and the individual troops because the affidavit was not based on personal knowledge. We agree with the district court that Roitstein’s role as an Area Director [**14] establishes his personal familiarity with the Boy Scout organization and conclude that the affidavit was properly considered.

The Boy Scouts of America is a congressionally chartered benevolent national organization, which is divided into geographic areas known as local councils. Three hundred ninety-eight local councils are chartered in the United States. Local sponsors, such as schools, churches or civic organizations apply for charters from the BSA through their local council. Local volunteers form a patrol leaders’ council to plan troop activities. BSA does not conduct or require any training for these adult volunteers. Troops do not need permission from BSA before participating in activities, with the exception of tours outside the United States or five hundred miles or more from the local council. The BSA had no advanced notice of Troop 392’s trip to Fort Leonard Wood. The troop was not required, nor did it receive, permission from the BSA to go to Fort Leonard Wood.

[HN6] Under the doctrine of respondeat superior an employer is liable for the negligent acts or omissions of his employee which are committed within the scope of his employment. Light v. Lang, 539 S.W.2d 795, 799 (Mo. App. Ct. 1976). [**15] Liability based on respondeat superior requires some evidence that a master-servant relationship existed between the parties. Usrey v. Dr. Pepper Bottling Co., 385 S.W.2d 335, 338 (Mo. Ct. App. 1964). The test to determine if respondeat superior applies is whether the person sought to be charged as a master had “the right or power to control and direct the physical conduct of the other in the performance of the act.” Id. at 339. If there is no right to control, there is no liability.

Courts of other jurisdictions that have addressed the issue now before this court have rejected the imposition of liability against the BSA or the local councils, [*959] noting the lack of control these entities exercise over individual troops and their sponsoring organizations. For example, in Mauch v. Kissling, 56 Wash. App. 312, 783 P.2d 601 (Wash. Ct. App. 1989), the court found there was no basis for the doctrine of apparent authority because the plaintiff had not presented evidence that BSA consented to or had control of the scoutmaster’s activities. Id. at 605.

Similarly, in Anderson v. Boy Scouts of America, Inc., 226 Ill. App. 3d 440, 589 N.E.2d 892, 168 Ill. Dec. 492 (Ill. App. Ct. 1992), [**16] the court found the plaintiffs had failed to establish that an agency relationship existed between the plaintiffs and the local council or the BSA:

We find no provisions in the charter, bylaws, rules and regulations promulgated by the BSA, nor can plaintiffs cite to any provisions within these documents, which specifically grant BSA or its district councils direct supervisory powers over the method or manner in which adult volunteer scout leaders accomplish their tasks.

Id. at 894-95.

Recently, the Missouri Court of Appeals considered the Wilson’s cause of action against the St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, arising from the same circumstances of the instant case. The Missouri court dismissed the suit against the local council, finding that “Council neither controlled the actions of the troop leaders nor ran the program at Fort Leonard Wood.” While the Missouri state court decision involved the local council, it is instructional here because the relationship between the national organization and the individual troop leaders is even more remote.

Appellants also contend that sufficient facts establish a jury question as [**17] to whether a principal/agent relationship existed under a theory of implied agency or apparent authority. Implied agency and apparent authority, however, are based on manifestations by the principal which causes a third person reasonably to believe that an agent of the principal is authorized to do certain acts. Barton v. Snellson, 735 S.W.2d 160, 162 (Mo. Ct. App. 1987). Appellants contend the use of common uniforms, emblems, books and awards in the scouting program, a national insurance program, issuance of the national membership card and other printed materials locally, as well as other indicia of a relationship between BSA and the local council, create a manifestation of authority upon which an innocent third party might reasonably rely.

Appellants fail, however, to produce any evidence that BSA manifested that it had direct control over the specific activities of individual troops or that it had a duty to control, supervise or train volunteer leaders for the Fort Leonard Wood activity. On the contrary, the Boy Scout Handbook clearly provides, “what the troop does is planned by the patrol leaders’ council.” The organizational structure of the BSA [**18] leaves the control of the specific activities at the level closest to the individual troop. Appellants have produced no direct or circumstantial evidence to suggest that in this case BSA manifested control.

In summary, we conclude that the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the Boy Scouts of America and the United States. The judgment of the district court is affirmed.


You cannot be liable for what you do not control or what volunteers do

Moore v. Boy Scouts of America Los Angeles Area Council, Inc., 2004 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 11180

It is also hard to be liable for not watching where you are walking

This case stems from injuries received when a volunteer was setting up a tent and fell over one of the guy lines for the tent.

The plaintiff was a volunteer and with other volunteers was setting up a large tent at a Scout Camp. The camp was owned by the Los Angeles Area Council, Inc. which was granted a charter by the Boy Scouts of America to offer the Scouting program to local youth. The tent was a large military wall tent, similar to what you would see on reruns of M*A*S*H.

While setting up the tent, another volunteer asked the plaintiff to get more tent stakes. She walked around the tent, picked up more stakes and while walking back tripped over one of the guy lines holding up the tent. None of the guy lines had been marked with flags or markers to indicate there was a line there and the accident occurred around 7:00 Pm in July. (None are marked in the M*A*S*H reruns either.) The factual issue became whether or not markers or flags should have been used to identify the guy-lines on the tents.

The court went through and clearly identified factual issues the court felt were important.

Moore had not set up the specific pole, rope or stake upon which she tripped.

The ropes coming off the tent were at varying angles and pitches. The ropes varied in length, de-pending upon location. There were no flags or markers on the ropes.

Before this date, Moore had never been involved in setting up or taking down this tent or this type of tent. However, in years past, Moore had used rope or flags to mark the guy ropes on this tent to make the ropes more visible.

Before Moore fell, neither Moore nor any of the other adult volunteers saw anything they considered unsafe or dangerous.

In the past, some of the adult volunteers had used markers (e.g., cloth or fluorescent plastic tape) to make ropes more visible in scout camps and in non-scout camping situations. In prior years, this tent had been used in the Boy Scout camp, and flags had been used to mark the ropes. It is unclear if markers were used each time the tent was used.

The plaintiff argued the BSA did not have a policy of marking guy lines with markers or flags.

The plaintiff sued for premises liability and negligence. The premises liability claim was based on negligently setting up a tent without guy lines and the negligence claim for not using reasonable care when setting up tents by not using markers on guy-lines.

The Boy Scouts filed a motion for summary judgment based on the fact there was no triable issues, no real legal claims, which was granted and the plaintiff appealed.

So?

The plaintiff’s main arguments were supported by its expert an ergonomist who was a human factors and safety consultant. (This has me confused too, as to why an ergonomist (whatever) has any knowledge of setting up a tent.) The ergonomist said that that groups in Virginia, Australia and Louisiana has policies on markers on tent lines.

The court first looked at the premises liability claim. A premises liability claim is based on a dangerous condition on land. The owner of land is liable for “only for hazardous conditions of which the possessor had actual or constructive knowledge.” The tent was not part of the land so there was no legal basis for a premises liability claim.

The negligence claim was also dismissed by the court. Since the tent was being set up by volunteers, there was no proof that the BSA created the dangerous condition or was aware that a dangerous condition existed. The BSA could not breach a duty of care when the actions which created a dangerous condition were not those of the BSA. Nor does the lack of a policy create a dangerous condition on land. The plaintiff’s argument the court reasoned, where closer to tent issues not land issues.

So Now What?

The legal issues are as stretched in this case as you can get in my opinion. You are setting up a tent by setting up guy lines; you can’t sue when you trip over a guy line.

The claims were incorrect for the facts. The court looked at the issues and could not find any legal connection between the facts, the claims and the law.

However, that does not mean that not watching where you walk might not lead to litigation at some future date that does hold some water.

You can write policies till there are no more trees. In doing so, you’ll probably sink some other group who is trying to save trees. Better to educate than kill a tree. Train your volunteers, prove you trained them, and then explain how the organization they are volunteering for cannot afford lawsuits, stupid ones or regular ones. By that I mean include litigation training; you can’t sue us, in the training you provide.

Explain how it is their job to protect each other as well as to protect the organization. Tell them and prove you told them that you cannot identify all of the risks they may encounter.

You might even have them sign a release.

Plaintiff: Josephine Moore

 

Defendant: Boy Scouts of America Los Angeles Area Council, Inc.

 

Plaintiff Claims: Premises Liability and Negligence

 

Defendant Defenses: not triable issues of fact, no negligence

 

Holding: Trial court dismissal was affirmed

 

 

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Moore v. Boy Scouts of America Los Angeles Area Council, Inc., 2004 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 11180

Moore v. Boy Scouts of America Los Angeles Area Council, Inc., 2004 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 11180

Josephine Moore, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Boy Scouts of America Los Angeles Area Council, Inc., Defendant and Respondent.

B170389

COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION THREE

2004 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 11180

December 10, 2004, Filed

NOTICE: [*1] NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS. CALIFORNIA RULES OF COURT, RULE 977(a), PROHIBIT COURTS AND PARTIES FROM CITING OR RELYING ON OPINIONS NOT CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION OR ORDERED PUBLISHED, EXCEPT AS SPECIFIED BY RULE 977(B). THIS OPINION HAS NOT BEEN CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION OR ORDERED PUBLISHED FOR THE PURPOSES OF RULE 977.

PRIOR HISTORY: APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. NC040331. Elizabeth Allen White, Judge.

DISPOSITION: Affirmed.

CORE TERMS: scout, tent, rope, volunteer, flag, summary judgment, scout camp, causes of action, hazard, marker, adult, guy ropes, feet, dangerous condition, declaration, triable, conspicuity, warning, premises liability, issues of fact, negligently, military, donated, wall tent, lighting, tripped, visible, manual, pole, trip

COUNSEL: Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, Thomas A. Delaney and Steven S. Streger, for Defendant and Respondent.

Desjardins Kelly and Warren D. Kelly, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

JUDGES: ALDRICH, J.; CROSKEY, Acting P. J., KITCHING, J. concurred.

OPINION BY: ALDRICH

OPINION

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff and appellant Josephine Moore (Moore) was setting up a tent for a scout camp site when she tripped over a rope that was securing the tent. Moore appeals from a summary judgment entered in favor of defendant and respondent Boy Scouts of America Los Angeles Area Council. Inc. (the Boy Scouts). We affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

1. Facts.

Following the usual rules on appeal, we construe the facts in the light most favorable [*2] to Moore, the party who opposed the motion for summary judgment. (Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc. (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1830, 1836.)

On July 8, 2001, Moore was setting up a scout camp site. She and other adult volunteers were erecting a wall tent that was secured by poles and ropes. No employee of the Boy Scouts was involved in setting up the tent. The Boy Scouts did not own the tent. The rectangular tent was oblong, about 24 feet long by 16 feet wide. The poles used to hold up the tent were 6 feet long. Beige ropes were used to secure the tent to the ground and to keep the tent upright.

At about 7:00 p.m., the volunteers had been setting up the tent for 30 to 60 minutes. The tent was about four or five feet from a picnic table. One of the other adults asked Moore to retrieve additional stakes from the opposite side of the tent. Moore walked around the tent and picked-up six or seven stakes. Moore walked near the tent, toward the adult who had requested the stakes. In doing so, Moore tripped over one of the ropes that had already been staked into the ground. The stake holding the rope was two to five feet from the tent and two to five feet from the picnic table.

[*3] Moore had not set up the specific pole, rope or stake upon which she tripped.

The ropes coming off the tent were at varying angles and pitches. The ropes varied in length, depending upon location. There were no flags or markers on the ropes.

Before this date, Moore had never been involved in setting up or taking down this tent or this type of tent. However, in years past, Moore had used rope or flags to mark the guy ropes on this tent to make the ropes more visible.

During the time the tent was being set up, Moore was aware that some guy ropes were already in place, extending out from corners of the tent.

Before Moore fell, neither Moore nor any of the other adult volunteers saw anything they considered unsafe or dangerous.

In the past, some of the adult volunteers had used markers (e.g., cloth or fluorescent plastic tape) to make ropes more visible in scout camps and in non-scout camping situations. In prior years, this tent had been used in the Boy Scout camp, and flags had been used to mark the ropes. It is unclear if markers were used each time the tent was used.

The Boy Scout’s manual did not address rope safety and did not instruct that markers were to be used, although [*4] some believed marking the ropes made good sense. The photograph of a wall tent in the manual appeared to have markers on the ropes.

At one Boy Scout volunteer training session held a few years prior to this accident, volunteers were told to flag tent ropes so no one would trip. The Boy Scouts had no documents relating to the use of warnings on ropes.

The scout camp is planned by volunteers. The Boy Scout district executive, Jim McCarthy, attends the planning meetings.

2. Procedure.

Moore sued the Boy Scouts. The complaint stated two causes of action.

In the first cause of action for premises liability, Moore alleged that the Boy Scouts “negligently maintained, managed, controlled, and operated the Scout Camp, in that the guy ropes attached to a certain tent in the Scout Camp were unmarked with flags, or with anything, and were obscured from view without some kind of flag, marker, or other warning, owing to their color, size and geometry, location, time of day, and other factors, which [the Boy Scouts] knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, constituted a dangerous condition and unreasonable risk of harm of which [Moore] was at all times . . . [*5] unaware. [The Boy Scouts] negligently failed to take steps to either make the condition safe or warn [Moore] of the dangerous condition, all of which caused [Moore] to trip and fall on one of the guy ropes, and to suffer the injuries and damages hereinafter described.”

In the second cause of action for negligence, Moore alleged that the Boy Scouts failed to “use reasonable care in the construction, maintenance, management, and control of the Scout Camp, including but not limited to placing flags or some other kind of marker or warning to identify and call attention to the presence and location of the guy ropes surrounding the tent tarp. [P] . . . [The Boy Scouts] knew or should have known that the construction of the Scout Camp was likely to create during the construction a risk of harm to those who were working on and around the Scout Camp unless special precautions were taken, in that, among other things, guy ropes, which were obscured from view . . . would be emanating from the tent, unmarked and unguarded, in a fashion that constituted a hazard to persons, including [Moore].”

The Boys Scouts brought a motion for summary judgment.

In opposing the motion, Moore submitted [*6] the declaration of psychologist Ilene B. Zackowitz, Ph.D. Dr. Zackowitz declared the following. She was a human factors and safety consultant and a certified professional ergonomist. 1 She had reviewed the discovery in this case. “When wall tents that are secured with ropes and stakes are used, it is foreseeable that the low conspicuity of the ropes may present a tripping hazard. Despite this foreseeable hazard, [the Boy Scouts have] no stated policy or procedure that addresses the hazard, namely using flags to increase the conspicuity of guy ropes, in the [Scout] Camping merit badge book or the Scouts ‘Guide to Safe Scouting.’ ” “Other Scout Councils recognize the hazard and have policies in place to address the hazard[, such as a troop in Georgetown, Virginia, the Scout Association of Australia, and the Southeast Louisiana Council].” “A stated policy of securing conspicuous flags to the ropes as they are secured to the ground (as opposed to waiting until the entire tent is erected) would greatly increase the conspicuity of the anchoring ropes.” “The incident occurred at dusk such that lighting conditions and contrast were reduced. Under ideal lighting conditions, a rope and [*7] stake would have low contrast with the dirt covered ground surface. . . . There were no visual cues that the hazard was present. . . . A flag on the rope would have provided contrast and would have called attention to the hazard.”

1 Dr. Zackowitz’s curriculum vitae includes information that she serves as a forensic consultant for personal injury accidents, including slips, trips, missteps, and falls, the effectiveness of warnings, visibility, conspicuity, and lighting.

The trial court granted the summary judgment motion. In the order granting summary judgment, the trial court found there were no triable issues of fact because: (1) there was no evidence of a dangerous condition and Dr. Zackowitz’s declaration was not admissible on the issue; (2) the Boy Scouts had no notice of the condition as the only ones present were volunteers, who were not agents of the Boy Scouts; and (3) the condition was open and notorious.

Judgment was entered against Moore, from which she appealed.

DISCUSSION

1. Standard [*8] of review upon a motion for summary judgment.

Following the granting of a summary judgment, we review the moving papers independently to determine whether there is a triable issue as to any material fact and whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. (Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., supra, 16 Cal.App.4th at p. 1837.)

A defendant who brings a motion for summary judgment asserting that the plaintiff cannot state a cause of action need only address the theories advanced in the complaint, as the complaint frames the issues. (United States Golf Assn. v. Arroyo Software Corp. (1999) 69 Cal.App.4th 607, 623; Varni Bros. Corp. v. Wine World, Inc. (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 880, 886-887; FPI Development, Inc. v. Nakashima (1991) 231 Cal. App. 3d 367, 381, 282 Cal. Rptr. 508.) “A party cannot successfully resist summary judgment on a theory not pleaded. [Citation.]” (Roth v. Rhodes (1994) 25 Cal.App.4th 530, 541.)

2. Moore has not demonstrated a triable issue of fact with regard to the two theories presented.

Moore stated two causes of action – premises [*9] liability and negligence. She contends there are triable issues of fact with regard to these causes of action. This contention is unpersuasive.

A cause of action for premises liability generally is based upon a dangerous condition on land. (Delgado v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc. (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 1403, 1406, fn. 1.) The possessor of land is liable only for hazardous conditions of which the possessor had actual or constructive knowledge. (Ortega v. Kmart Corp. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 1200, 1203.) Here, the tent was set up by volunteers, who were not the agents of the Boy Scouts. (Young v. Boy Scouts of America (1935) 9 Cal. App. 2d 760, 765 [adult volunteers are not agents of local councils].) There is no evidence the Boy Scouts knew the tent was being set up. Thus, the Boy Scouts neither created the “dangerous” condition nor were aware that it existed.

With regard to the negligence cause of action, Moore alleged that the Boy Scouts negligently constructed, maintained, managed, and controlled the camp. However, the undisputed facts were that the volunteers undertook all of these activities. Thus, Moore failed to establish that the [*10] Boy Scouts breached its duty to her. (Cf. Ortega v. Kmart Corp., supra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 1205 [negligence requires duty, breach, causation, damages].)

Moore argues that notice of the condition is irrelevant as liability “is not based on acts of the volunteers who erected the tent, but on the policy (or lack thereof) of the [Boy Scouts] relating to tent safety, as well as the fact that [the Boy Scouts] provided a tent with inconspicuous ropes and no flags.” These arguments are based primarily upon (1) statements made by some of the volunteers who said that the past they had marked the ropes to make them more visible, (2) comments by Moore’s expert (Dr. Zackowitz), and (3) Dr. Zackowitz’s reference to other scout manuals.

However, Moore’s complaint, which framed the issues, did not alleged that the Boy Scouts lacked a policy with regard to rope safety, nor did it allege that the Boy Scouts were negligent in supplying a defective tent. (Cf. FNS Mortgage Service Corp. v. Pacific General Group, Inc. (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 1564, 1572 [discussing negligent undertaking].)

Further, there is an evidentiary problem with Moore’s argument [*11] relating to the Boy Scouts supplying the tent. In Moore’s appellate brief, she does not provide a citation to the record to support the statement that the tent had been supplied by the Boy Scouts or that it had been donated to the Boy Scouts by the military. (Grant-Burton v. Covenant Care, Inc. (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 1361, 1378-1379 [parties have obligation to provide proper citations to record].) 2 In Moore’s separate statement of disputed and undisputed material facts, Moore also fails to establish that the tent had been supplied by the Boy Scouts, or that it had been donated to the Boy Scouts by the military. Additionally, Moore testified in her deposition that she did not believe that the Boy Scouts owned the tent. Dr. Zackowitz did state in her declaration that the tent had been donated to the Boy Scouts by the military. However, Dr. Zackowitz does not identify the source of this information and therefore this testimony lacks foundation.

2 In the introduction to her brief, Moore points to the Clerk’s Transcript, pages 226 to 264 for this factual assertion. This is an insufficient citation. (Grant-Burton v. Covenant Care, Inc., supra, 99 Cal.App.4th at p. 1379 [appropriate reference to records must include exact page citations].)

[*12] Summary judgment was properly granted in favor of the Boy Scouts. 3

3 In light of our conclusion, we need not address whether the trial court made evidentiary errors with regard to Dr. Zackowitz’s declaration.

DISPOSITION

The judgment is affirmed. Moore is to pay all costs on appeal.

ALDRICH, J.

We concur:

CROSKEY, Acting P. J.

KITCHING, J.

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In this mountain biking case, fighting each claim pays off.

N.H., a minor child, v. Sequoyah Council, Inc., Boy Scouts of America, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87452

Gross negligence claim is thrown out because the complaint failed to plead enough facts.

This case is about a minor, who was attending a Boy Scout summer camp. While at camp, he went mountain biking on a camp bicycle. While riding the mountain bike the plaintiff alleges the brakes were not working and the plaintiff road off the trail and hit a tree.

The plaintiff’s complaint alleged the following:

(1) it failed to keep the mountain bike trails in a reasonably safe condition; (2) it failed to warn the minor plaintiff of hidden perils of the trails which defendant knew, or by reasonable inspection, could have discovered; (3) it failed to properly train its employees; (4) it failed to properly mark the bike trail; (5) it failed to properly evaluate and assess the skill of the minor plaintiff before allowing him to ride the trail; and (6) it was “negligent in other manners.

The plaintiff also requested gross negligence as part of his damages. His complaint stated, “the negligence of Defendant . . . was the proximate cause of the injuries to the minor plaintiff….

Generally, gross negligence is defined as greater than normal negligence. (Only a lawyer could get away with that definition….) A better definition might be:

Another definition is the failure to exercise that care that even a careless person would exercise. Gross Negligence falls just short of a reckless disregard of the consequences of the actor’s acts. Aggravated Negligence is gross negligence. The actual differences between ordinary negligence and gross negligence are difficult to define, and ordinarily done by the jury.[1]

For more on Gross Negligence see Good Release stops lawsuit against Michigan’s bicycle renter based on marginal acts of bicycle renter or New Jersey upholds release for injury in faulty bike at fitness club.

The defendant camp filed a motion for summary judgment to eliminate the claim for gross negligence. The reason is based upon the complaint the allegation of gross negligence is the only real basis for the demand for punitive damages. Eliminate the claim for gross negligence and you have taken most of the fight out of the gross negligence claim and a lot of the ability of the plaintiff to threaten from the case.

A claim of gross negligence is not enough under Tennessee’s law to allow a jury to award punitive damages. Punitive damages can only be awarded if the jury finds the defendant acted “(1) intentionally, (2) fraudulently, (3) maliciously, or (4) recklessly.

Intentionally, fraudulently and maliciously are easily understood. In Tennessee, a person acts recklessly when:

A person acts recklessly when the person is aware of, but consciously disregards, a substantial and unjustifiable risk of such a nature that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances.

Because the complaint did not allege how or why the defendant was aware of the problems with the bicycle or the trail, he could not sustain a claim for gross negligence and consequently, claim punitive damages.

The court granted the defendants claim.

So?

Not every lawsuit provides the opportunity to start and win a fight based on the pleadings. However, every pleading, complaint, should be examined to make sure, under the law of that state, the pleadings make a legal case.

Even if a flaw is found, you need to examine the cost of the fight and the benefit. Sometimes a flaw can be allowed to survive to be attacked later. However, litigation is a fight and every opportunity to weaken the opposing side should be taken.

For additional cases looking at the legal issues of cycling see:

Connecticut court works hard to void a release for a cycling event

Good Release stops lawsuit against Michigan bicycle renter based on marginal acts of bicycle renter

How to fight a Bicycle Product Liability case in New York. One step at a time

Maine upholds release in a mountain bike race and awards defendants costs and attorney fees

New York Decision explains the doctrine of Primary Assumption of the Risk for cycling

PA court upholds release in bicycle race

Release for training ride at Triathlon training camp stops lawsuit

Release stops most of the litigation against a ski area and USA Cycling in a Mountain Bike race but leaves other members out in the cold or should I say stuck in the courtroom

Summary Judgment granted for bicycle manufacturer and retailer on a breach of warranty and product liability claim.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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[1]           Outdoor Recreation Risk Management, Insurance and Law, Chapter 7

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N.H., a minor child, v. Sequoyah Council, Inc., Boy Scouts of America, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87452

N.H., a minor child, v. Sequoyah Council, Inc., Boy Scouts of America, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87452

N.H., a minor child, by and through his parents Jorge Hernandez and Elizabeth Hernandez and Jorge Hernandez and Elizabeth Hernandez, Individually, v. Sequoyah Council, Inc., Boy Scouts of America

NO. 2:11-CV-171

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE

2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87452

April 30, 2012, Filed

CORE TERMS: punitive damages, trail, gross negligence, recklessly, survive, failed to properly, bike, damages claim, reasonable inference, entitlement to relief’, plausibility, punitive, reckless, biking, summer camp, proximate cause, proximate result, mountain

COUNSEL: [*1] For Jorge Hernandez, Individually Minor N. H, Elizabeth Hernandez, Individually Minor N. H., Plaintiffs: Thomas C Jessee, Jessee & Jessee, Johnson City, TN.

For Sequoyah Council, Inc., Boy Scouts of America, defendant: Suzanne S Cook, LEAD ATTORNEY, Hunter, Smith & Davis – Johnson City, Johnson City, TN.

JUDGES: J. RONNIE GREER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

OPINION BY: J. RONNIE GREER

OPINION

ORDER

This personal injury action is before the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Pending before the Court is the defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ demand for punitive damages pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [Doc. 5]. For the reasons which follow, the motion is GRANTED.

FACTS

The following facts are taken from plaintiffs’ Complaint and are assumed true for the purposes of defendant’s motion to dismiss. In June 2010, the minor plaintiff was registered by his parents to participate in a summer camp owned and operated by defendant in an attempt to earn merit badges towards becoming an Eagle Scout. On June 15, 2010, while at this summer camp, the minor plaintiff participated in a mountain biking activity/class sponsored by defendant. During the course of his participation, the minor plaintiff discovered [*2] that the brakes on his bike were not working, and he rode off the trail and struck a tree, sustaining severe bodily injuries.

The defendant was allegedly negligent as follows: (1) it failed to keep the mountain bike trails in a reasonably safe condition; (2) it failed to warn the minor plaintiff of hidden perils of the trails which defendant knew, or by reasonable inspection, could have discovered; (3) it failed to properly train its employees; (4) it failed to properly mark the bike trail; (5) it failed to properly evaluate and assess the skill of the minor plaintiff before allowing him to ride the trail; and (6) it was “negligent in other manners.” [Doc. 1 at ¶19]. The Complaint also states that “the negligence of Defendant . . . was the proximate cause of the injuries to the minor plaintiff.” Id. at ¶20. The Complaint contains a number of additional paragraphs that allege how the “negligence” of the defendant was the proximate cause of various other consequences. Id. at ¶¶22-27. The final paragraph of the Complaint states, “As a proximate . . . result of the negligence of Defendant, the Plaintiffs have been damaged . . . in an amount not to exceed $600,000.00 actual damages. As a [*3] direct and proximate result of the gross negligence of the Defendant, the Plaintiffs believe they are entitled to recover punitive damages . . ..” Id. at ¶28 (emphasis added).

Defendant has filed a motion asking the Court to dismiss the Complaint so far as punitive damages are concerned on the ground that the plaintiffs have failed to adequately plead a factual basis that would provide for the award of punitive damages.

LEGAL STANDARD

Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) requires “a short and plain statement of the claims” that “will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is and the ground upon which it rests.” The Supreme Court has held that “[w]hile a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitlement to relief’ requires more than just labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007).

“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, [*4] accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Thus, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. at 1950. When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all of the plaintiff’s allegations as true in determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim for which relief could be granted. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S. Ct. 2229, 81 L. Ed. 2d 59 (1984).

ANALYSIS

“In a diversity action . . . the propriety of an award of punitive damages for the conduct in question, and the factors the jury may consider in determining their amount, are questions of state law.” Browning-Ferris Indus. of Vt., Inc., v. Kelco Disposal, Inc., 492 U.S. 257, 278, 109 S. Ct. 2909, 106 L. Ed. 2d 219 (1989). Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss, a claim for punitive damages must be plausible as defined by Tennessee law.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that punitive damages are available in cases involving “only the most egregious of wrongs.” [*5] Hodges v. S.C. Toof & Co., 833 S.W.2d 896, 901 (Tenn. 1992). Accordingly, under Tennessee law, “a court may . . . award punitive damages only if it finds a defendant has acted either (1) intentionally, (2) fraudulently, (3) maliciously, or (4) recklessly.” Id. 1

1 The Tennessee Supreme Court has expressly stated that punitive damages are not available for “gross negligence.” Hodges, 833 S.W.2d at 900-901. However, the legal sufficiency of a complaint does not depend upon whether or not the plaintiffs invoked the right “magic words,” but instead whether the facts as alleged may plausibly be construed to state a claim that meets the standards of Rule 12(b)(6). See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009)(clarifying the dismissal standard under Rule 12(b)(6) and noting that “Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era”). Consequently, the Court will construe the plaintiffs’ allegations of “gross negligence” in paragraph 28 of the Complaint as an allegation that defendant behaved “recklessly.”

Here, defendant asserts that “Although the Complaint cursorily mentions ‘gross negligence’ one time in a conclusory manner, the Complaint [*6] lacks any facts or allegations that aver an utter lack of concern or reckless disregard such that a conscious indifference can even be implied . . ..” [Doc. 6 at 3]. The plaintiff counters that “The plaintiff in this case has identified specific detailed acts of negligence on the part of the defendant and . . . [consequently] it is clear that a jury could decide that the actions of the defendant were grossly negligent.” [Doc. 7 at 2].

The Court has reviewed the Complaint and agrees with the defendant. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant’s liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Such is the case with the Complaint in this matter. The entirety of the Complaint is dedicated to explaining why the defendant was negligent. However, there is no separate mention made regarding why the defendant was reckless. To be sure, the plaintiff could argue that by alleging in multiple paragraphs that defendant “knew, or should have known,” of certain unsafe conditions, he has sufficiently pled both negligence and recklessness. However, plaintiff would be mistaken in asserting such [*7] argument.

Under Tennessee law, “A person acts recklessly when the person is aware of, but consciously disregards, a substantial and unjustifiable risk of such a nature that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances.” Hodges, 833 S.W.2d at 901. An examination of the Complaint reveals that plaintiffs have failed to allege how or why the defendant was aware of the deficiencies in the bicycle and the biking trail. This is fatal to plaintiffs’ claim for punitive damages. See Carrier Corp. v. Outokumpu Oyj, 673 F.3d 430, 445 (6th Cir. 2012) (“To survive a motion to dismiss . . . allegations must be specific enough to establish the relevant ‘who, what, where, when, how or why.”); See also, Tucker v. Bernzomatic, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43771, 2010 WL 1838704 (E.D.Pa. May 4, 2010) (Dismissing punitive damages claim in products liability action because consumer did not allege how or why manufacturer knew that its product was dangerous).

In light of the foregoing, the Court concludes that the Complaint does not contain sufficient factual content to allow the Court to draw the reasonable inference that defendant has acted recklessly. [*8] See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The punitive damages claim will therefore be dismissed.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ demand for punitive damages [Doc. 5] is GRANTED and plaintiffs’ demand for punitive damages is DISMISSED.

ENTER:

/s/ J. RONNIE GREER

UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

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Cole v. Boy Scouts of America, 2011 S.C. LEXIS 383

Cole v. Boy Scouts of America, 2011 S.C. LEXIS 383

Karen Cole, as Guardian ad litem for David C., Appellant, v. Boy Scouts of America, Indian Waters Council, Pack 48, Faith Presbyterian Church and Jeff Wagner, Defendants, of whom Jeff Wagner is, Respondent. David Cole and Karen Cole, Appellants v. Boy Scouts of America, Indian Waters Council, Pack 48, Faith Presbyterian Church and Jeff Wagner, Defendants, of whom Jeff Wagner is, Respondent.

Opinion No. 27072

SUPREME COURT OF SOUTH CAROLINA

2011 S.C. LEXIS 383

October 5, 2011, Heard

December 5, 2011, Filed

NOTICE:

THIS DECISION IS NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED.

PRIOR HISTORY:  [*1]

Appeal From Richland County. G. Thomas Cooper, Jr., Circuit Court Judge.

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED.

COUNSEL: Arthur K. Aiken, of Aiken & Hightower, P.A., of Columbia, for Appellants.

John M. Grantland, Alice P. Adams, and Ashley B. Stratton, of Murphy & Grantland, of Columbia, for Respondent.

JUDGES: JUSTICE HEARN. TOAL, C.J., BEATTY and KITTREDGE, JJ., concur. PLEICONES, J., concurring in a separate opinion.

OPINION BY: HEARN

 OPINION

JUSTICE HEARN: David Cole, the primary appellant, was injured while catching during a father-son game of softball at a Cub Scout outing when a baserunner collided with him at home plate. He brought this action alleging negligence and recklessness against the baserunner and the sponsors of the game. The circuit court judge granted summary judgment to the baserunner, and we affirm.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In March 2004, David Cole and his son, David Jr., who was a member of Cub Scout Pack 48, attended a Cub Scout family camping trip. During the course of the trip, Cole and David Jr. participated in a father-son, pick-up softball game. Jeff Wagner and his son were also on the camping trip and were playing on the opposite team from the Coles in the softball game. Although one of the older boys had been playing [*2] catcher, Cole took over the position because he was afraid the boy would be hit by a foul ball or by the batter.

Neither of the teams kept score, and during each inning everyone was allowed to bat. Apparently, some of the fathers were playing too aggressively in the minds of some participants and hitting the ball with full swings. One of the Scout leaders, Keith Corley, briefly interrupted the game and asked them to play more safely, fearing that they were putting the scouts in danger.

During Wagner’s next turn at bat, he hit a double. Another father came up to bat after him and hit the ball into the outfield, potentially allowing Wagner to score. As Wagner reached home plate, he collided with Cole, who had moved on top of the plate, thereby placing his body directly in the baseline. Wagner was running so fast that he was unable to stop or change directions in time to avoid Cole. Upon impact, Wagner flipped in the air and landed on a bat, breaking a rib. Cole suffered a closed head injury and was rendered semiconscious. He then began bleeding and went into convulsions. Cole had to be airlifted to Palmetto Richland Hospital where he spent two days in the intensive care unit. David Jr. [*3] witnessed the entire accident in fear that his father was going to die.

Cole and his wife Karen, personally and as guardian ad litem for David Jr. (collectively, Appellants), brought this action against Wagner, the Boy Scouts of America, Indian Waters Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Pack 48, and Faith Presbyterian Church for personal injury, loss of consortium, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Wagner 1 moved for summary judgment, contending he owed no duty to Cole because Cole assumed the risks incident to the sport of softball. The circuit court granted Wagner’s motion, and this appeal followed.

1 The Coles settled with all the other defendants.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[HN1] An appellate court reviewing a grant of summary judgment applies the same standard used by the trial court. Doe ex rel. Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 393 S.C. 240, 244, 711 S.E.2d 908, 910 (2011). Summary judgment is appropriate if “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact.” Rule 56(c), SCRCP. [HN2]  In determining whether a triable issue of material fact exists, the Court must construe all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Wogan v. Kunze, 379 S.C. 581, 585, 666 S.E.2d 901, 903 (2008)  [*4]  [HN3] “In order to withstand a motion for summary judgment in cases applying the preponderance of the evidence burden of proof, the non-moving party is only required to submit a mere scintilla of evidence.” Turner v. Milliman, 392 S.C. 116, 122, 708 S.E.2d 766, 769 (2011).  [HN4] “A motion for summary judgment on the basis of the absence of a duty is a question of law for the court to determine.” Oblachinski v. Reynolds, 391 S.C. 557, 560, 706 S.E.2d 844, 845 (2011). If a legal duty is established, whether the defendant breached that duty is a question of fact. Singletary v. S.C. Dept. of Educ., 316 S.C. 153, 157, 447 S.E.2d 231, 233 (Ct. App. 1994).

LAW/ANALYSIS

Appellants argue that the circuit court erred in finding Cole assumed the risk of his injury by engaging in a game of softball because Wagner’s conduct was outside the scope of the game. Specifically, Appellants argue Wagner’s behavior was inconsistent with the ordinary risks of softball because the game was intended to be noncompetitive, Wagner violated a rule of the game, and he acted recklessly. We disagree.

[HN5] “Primary implied assumption of risk arises when the plaintiff impliedly assumes those risks that are inherent in a  [*5] particular activity.” Davenport v. Cotton Hope Plantation Horizontal Prop. Regime, 333 S.C. 71, 81, 508 S.E.2d 565, 570 (1998). The doctrine of primary implied assumption of risk “goes to the initial determination of whether the defendant’s legal duty encompasses the risk encountered by the plaintiff.” Id.  [HN6] To establish a claim for negligence, a plaintiff must first show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. Doe, 393 S.C. at 246, 711 S.E.2d at 911. Absent a legally recognized duty, the defendant in a negligence action is entitled to a judgment as matter of law. Hurst v. East Coast Hockey League, 371 S.C. 33, 37, 637 S.E.2d 560, 562 (2006).

In Hurst, we considered the application of assumption of risk in a sports context. The plaintiff was injured when a hockey puck struck him in the face while he was watching a professional hockey game. 371 S.C. at 36, 673 S.E.2d at 561. The plaintiff sued the hockey team for negligence, and we affirmed the grant of summary judgment for the team finding that “a flying puck is inherent to the game of hockey and is also a common, expected, and frequent risk of hockey.” Id. at 38, 673 S.E.2d at 562-63. We held that by attending the hockey  [*6] game, the plaintiff implicitly assumed the risks inherent in the sport and the defendant had no duty to protect him from those risks. Id. at 38, 673 S.E.2d at 562.

Appellants argue that Hurst is factually distinguishable, and therefore inapplicable, since the plaintiff in Hurst was a spectator and the game was being played by a professional team. Both of these arguments are unavailing. We acknowledge that the duty owed by a player to a spectator may differ in form to a duty owed to a coparticipant in a sport, but only because a duty owed to a spectator would be greater. Thus, if anything, by playing the game, Cole assumed a greater risk than the plaintiff in Hurst who was a mere spectator.

Furthermore, it is legally inconsequential that Hurst involved a professional sport. Hurst contained no qualifying language to limit its holding to the professional sports context, and we take this opportunity to emphasize that the critical fact is not the level of play, but the nature of the sport itself. See Marchetti v. Kalish, 53 Ohio St. 3d 95, 559 N.E.2d 699, 702 (Ohio 1990) ( [HN7] “Whether the activity is organized, unorganized, supervised or unsupervised is immaterial to the standard of liability.“). A risk inherent  [*7] in a sport can be found at any level of play, possibly more so in a non-professional arena where the players engage with less skill and athleticism. While Cole was playing a casual game in which the teams did not even keep score, he was still playing softball, which is a contact sport. 2 Where a person chooses to participate in a contact sport, whatever the level of play, he assumes the risks inherent in that sport. See Landrum v. Gonzalez, 257 Ill. App. 3d 942, 629 N.E.2d 710, 714, 196 Ill. Dec. 165 (Ill. App. Ct. 1994) (noting that the relative inquiry into the standard of care is whether the sport is a contact sport, which should be determined “by examining the objective factors surrounding the game itself, not on the subjective expectations of the parties”); Keller v. Mols, 156 Ill. App. 3d 235, 509 N.E.2d 584, 586, 108 Ill. Dec. 888 (Ill. App. Ct. 1987) (“[I]n determining whether a sports participant may be liable for injuries to another player caused by mere negligence, the relevant inquiry is whether the participants were involved in a contact sport, not whether they were organized and coached.”). Therefore by playing softball, Cole assumed those risks that are integral to the sport of softball, which includes the risk of a collision at home plate.

2 Numerous [*8] courts across the country have similarly acknowledged softball is a contact sport. See, e.g., D’Agostino v. Easton Sports, Inc., No. X04HHDCV085026631S, 2010 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3200, 2010 WL 5492731, at *3 (Conn. Super. Ct. Dec. 9, 2010) (unpublished decision) (noting that “softball is a contact sport” (internal citation omitted)); Gonzalez, 629 N.E.2d at 715 (finding  [HN8] softball is a contact sport in a case involving an employee pick-up game, noting that “physical contact is part of the game”); Feld v. Borkowski, 790 N.W.2d 72, 79 (Iowa 2010) (concluding that softball is a contact sport and noting that this was the conclusion of other courts that have considered this question); Crawn v. Campo, 136 N.J. 494, 643 A.2d 600, 606 (N.J. 1994) (applying the standard of care applied for contact sports across most states to softball); Licitra v. Inc. Vill. of Garden City, 4 Misc. 3d 1022[A], 798 N.Y.S.2d 345, 2004 NY Slip Op 50993[U], 2004 WL 2034999, at *2 (N.Y. App. Div. 2004) (unpublished opinion) (“The risk of injury is clearly inherent in contact sports such as softball.”); Kalan v. Fox, 187 Ohio App. 3d 687, 2010 Ohio 2951, 933 N.E.2d 337, 341-42 (Ohio Ct. App. 2010) (noting that physical contact is inevitable in contact sports like softball).

Appellants accordingly contend that Wagner violated a rule of softball [*9] by “running over the catcher during a play at home plate,” and therefore his conduct was outside the scope of the game. However, [HN9] the risk of someone violating a rule of the game is one of the risks taken when engaging in a sport. See Landrum, 629 N.E.2d at 714 (citing Oswald v. Township High Sch. Dist. No. 214, 84 Ill. App. 3d 723, 406 N.E.2d 157, 160, 40 Ill. Dec. 456 (Ill. Ct. App. 1980)) (noting that “rule infractions, deliberate or unintentional, are virtually inevitable in contact games” and thus a different standard of care in such sports is justified). If no one ever violated the rules, then there would be no need for penalty shots in basketball, a penalty box in hockey, or flags on the field in football. Collisions at home plate are common, mainly because catchers often attempt to keep a runner from scoring by blocking the plate with their body. Even if a rule prohibits running into the catcher, that fact alone is insufficient evidence to show the injury resulting from the violation of the rule was not inherent in the sport.

As a final matter, Appellants argue that even if mere negligence may be outside the duty of care, Wagner’s conduct was reckless and therefore outside the scope of risks assumed in the game of  [*10] softball.  [HN10] “[R]ecklessness or willfulness may be inferred from conduct so grossly negligent that a person of ordinary reason and prudence would then have been conscious of the probability of resulting injury.” Yaun v. Baldridge, 243 S.C. 414, 419, 134 S.E.2d 248, 251 (1964). “[R]ecklessness implies the doing of a negligent act knowingly . . . [or] the conscious failure to exercise due care.” Id. (quoting State v. Rachels, 218 S.C. 1, 8, 61 S.E.2d 249, 252 (1950)). “Due care” can be defined as “that degree of care which a person of ordinary prudence and reason would exercise under the same circumstances.” Berberich v. Jack, 392 S.C. 278, 287, 709 S.E.2d 607, 612 (2011) (quoting Hart v. Doe, 261 S.C. 116, 122, 198 S.E.2d 526, 529 (1973)).

Even assuming, arguendo, that Wagner’s conduct could be characterized as reckless, it was not so reckless as to involve risks outside the scope of softball.  [HN11] The likelihood of someone running too fast to stop or playing more aggressively than anticipated is part of the competitive atmosphere of athletics. Almost all contact sports, especially ones that require protective gear as part of their equipment, involve conduct that a reasonably prudent person [*11] would recognize may result in injury. To the extent these risks inhere in the sport involved, we hold some recklessness by copaticipants in a contact sport must be assumed as part of the game. Accordingly, a player assumes the risk of ordinary recklessness committed within the course of the game.

We emphasize that this holding is limited to recklessness committed within the scope of the game and does not include intentional conduct by a coparticipant of a sport, or conduct so reckless as to be outside the scope of the game. 3 Even within the context of a contact sport, players owe reciprocal duties to not intentionally injure each other. Cole does not allege that Wagner’s conduct was intentional nor does he allege such recklessness as would fall outside the scope of the game of softball. Thus, Wagner’s conduct fell within the duty of care he owed to Cole as a coparticipant in the game.

3 While other courts have carved out exceptions for both reckless and intentional conduct, a viable recklessness claim must embrace conduct inconsistent with the game. See Rudzinski v. BB, No. 0:09-1819-JFA, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68471, 2010 WL 2723105 at *3 (D.S.C. 2010) (finding one boy had not acted recklessly in hitting another  [*12] boy with the backswing of his golf club because he had not “engaged in conduct so reckless as to be totally outside the range of the ordinary activity involved in the sport of golf”); Knight v. Jewett, 3 Cal. 4th 296, 11 Cal. Rptr. 2d 2, 834 P.2d 696, 710 (Cal. 1992) (failing to find defendant liable for recklessness for knocking over plaintiff and stepping on her hand during a game of touch football, stating that defendant’s conduct was not “so reckless as to be totally outside the range of ordinary activity involved in the sport”); Bourque v. Duplechin, 331 So. 2d 40, 42-43 (La. Ct. App. 1976) (finding defendant liable under a theory of recklessness where he had run several feet outside the baseline to collide with the second baseman in an effort to break up a double play and noting that such unsportsmanlike behavior was not incidental to playing softball).

CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, we affirm the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Wagner.

TOAL, C.J., BEATTY and KITTREDGE, JJ., concur. PLEICONES, J., concurring in a separate opinion.

CONCUR BY: PLEICONES

 CONCUR

JUSTICE PLEICONES: I concur in the decision to affirm the grant of summary judgment because I would find that Wagner owed no duty to Cole under these [*13] circumstances, relying on the doctrine of implied primary assumption of the risk. Hurst v. East Coast Hockey League, 371 S.C. 33, 637 S.E.2d 560 (2006). I also note that I am not convinced that a game of pick-up softball is a contact sport.