This is why you should BOYCOTT NEW HAMPSHIRE! Do not recreate in this state.

New Hampshire charges for Search & Rescue. To be able to charge it must prove you were negligent. If you get hurt or need rescued you are NEGLIGENT in New Hampshire.

N.H. Fish & Game Dep’t v. Bacon, 167 N.H. 591, 116 A.3d 1060, 2015 N.H. LEXIS 34

State: New Hampshire, Supreme Court of New Hampshire

Plaintiff: New Hampshire Fish and Game Department

Defendant: Edward Bacon

Plaintiff Claims: Negligent

Defendant Defenses: No proof that the defendants actions were negligent

Holding: For the Plaintiff, state of New Hampshire

Year: 2015

Summary

A law in New Hampshire, which you cannot beat or get around, requires the state to charge you for the costs of search and rescue. The court simply stated the New Hampshire Fish & Game statement that the actions of the defendant were negligent. Proof was the prior injuries the plaintiff had suffered in his life. Boycott New Hampshire.

Facts

On September 16, 2012, the defendant began a five-day solo hiking trip in the White Mountains, during which he planned to hike several mountains with summits over 5,000 feet. At the time of the hike, the defendant was fifty-nine years old, had undergone four hip surgeries since 2005, and had an artificial hip that had dislocated on five occasions, twice during the prior year. The defendant also had a “bad back” and was taking a variety of medications for multiple ailments. In preparation for his hike, the defendant trained in a city park in Michigan, which had 250-foot hills and some “gravelly” spots. The conditions on the Franconia Ridge Trail between Liberty and Little Haystack Mountains, on which the rescuers eventually located the defendant, are rocky and steep in various locations.

On September 18, the defendant left the Liberty Springs campsite to begin a planned hike to the summits of Liberty, Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette Mountains; he planned to end at the Greenleaf Hut, which provides overnight accommodations to hikers. Days in advance, stormy weather had been forecast for the morning the defendant began the hike, and rain began a few hours after he departed the campsite. A bit later, the defendant’s pack cover “on its own accord came off and flew away in the wind.” Sergeant Brad Morse, a Conservation Officer with the Department who helped rescue the defendant, testified that the winds were among the worst he had ever experienced in that part of the Franconia Ridge Trail and had repeatedly blown him to the ground. Sometime that morning, the defendant slipped on loose gravel, slid down the trail, hit his pack on a rock, and lost his tent which fell down a ravine. At noon time, the defendant took a photograph of two other hikers he encountered on the trail, both of whom were wearing full rain gear with their hoods over their heads.

At around 1:00 p.m., the defendant encountered a waist-high rock ledge that he needed to traverse in order to continue on the trail. He attempted to jump backward up onto the ledge and, in the process, fell and dislocated his hip. Approximately one hour later, Morse received an alert that a hiker had dislocated his hip and needed assistance. He responded immediately and eventually located the defendant on the trail between Little Haystack and Lincoln Mountains. Morse testified that when he found the defendant his left leg was flexed and internally rotated, the very position that the defendant’s orthopedic surgeon had warned him to avoid due to his hip replacement.

Approximately fifteen Department personnel and thirty-five volunteers participated in the defendant’s rescue during the afternoon and evening of September 18 and into the early morning hours of September 19. When Lieutenant James Kneeland visited the defendant in the hospital after his rescue, the defendant explained that he had misread the weather report: he thought the forecast called for 30-40 mph winds with gusts up to 70 mph and heavy rain, instead of the actual forecast of 30-40 mph winds increasing to 70 mph and heavy rain. The defendant also told Kneeland that he had caught his left leg while attempting to jump backward up onto a rock ledge and dislocated his artificial hip when he fell.

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

The New Hampshire Supreme Court first looked at the statute in question.

§ 206:26-bb. Search and Rescue Response Expenses; Recovery

I. Any person determined by the department to have acted negligently in requiring a search and rescue response by the department shall be liable to the department for the reasonable cost of the department’s expenses for such search and rescue response, unless the person shows proof of possessing a current version of any of the following:

(a)    A hunting or fishing license issued by this state under title XVIII.

(b)    An OHRV registration under RSA 215-A, a snowmobile registration under RSA 215-C, or a vessel registration under RSA 270-E.

(c)    A voluntary hike safe card. The executive director shall adopt rules under RSA 541-A for the issuance to purchasers on the department’s Internet site, and subsequent annual renewals, of a hike safe card prior to a person’s need for a search and rescue response. The annual fee for a hike safe card shall be $25 for an individual or $35 for a family. A “family” shall consist of the purchaser, the purchaser’s spouse, and the purchaser’s minor children or stepchildren. In addition, if the purchaser or the purchaser’s spouse has been appointed as a family guardian for an individual under RSA 464-A, that individual shall be considered part of the purchaser’s family. A transaction fee determined by the department shall be for the Internet license agent as provided in RSA 214-A:2. The executive director shall forward to the state treasurer the sum collected from each individual hike safe card purchased and each family hike safe card purchased, less the amount of such transaction fee, for deposit in the fish and game search and rescue fund under RSA 206:42.

I-a.    The executive director shall bill the responsible person for such costs. Payment shall be made to the department within 30 days after the receipt of the bill, or by some other date determined by the executive director. If any person shall fail or refuse to pay the costs by the required date, the department may pursue payment by legal action, or by settlement or compromise, and the responsible person shall be liable for interest from the date that the bill is due and for legal fees and costs incurred by the department in obtaining and enforcing judgment under this paragraph. All amounts recovered, less the costs of collection and any percentage due pursuant to RSA 7:15-a, IV(b), shall be paid into the fish and game search and rescue fund established in RSA 206:42.

II.    If any person fails to make payment under paragraph I, the executive director of the fish and game department may:

(a)    Order any license, permit, or tag issued by the fish and game department to be suspended or revoked, after due hearing.

(b)    Notify the commissioner of the department of health and human services of such nonpayment. The nonpayment shall constitute cause for revocation of any license or certification issued by the commissioner pursuant to RSA 126-A:20 and RSA 151:7.

(c)    Notify the director of motor vehicles of such nonpayment and request suspension of the person’s driver’s license pursuant to RSA 263:56.

III.    Regardless of a person’s possession of a document satisfying subparagraph I(a), (b), or (c), a person shall be liable to the department for search and rescue response expenses if the person is judged to have done any of the actions listed in RSA 153-A:24, I.

As you can see in reading the statute, there is no definition of what a negligent act might be in New Hampshire that would trigger this requirement. To the best of my knowledge and research, neither does the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department. EVERY ACT where a rescue is run is negligence and everyone gets charged.

There are four steps to prove negligence in most states. Duty, Breach of the Duty, Injury and Damages. The last to I suppose are the cost of the rescue to New Hampshire. But what is the duty of care and who is the duty of care owed too?

A duty is a level of doing or not doing something, below which the action or in action is actionable if it causes injury. So, a hiker, as in this case, owed a duty to New Hampshire? For what? There is a duty not to get injured? There is a duty not to require assistance in getting out of the backcountry? If the duty is either of those issues, then there is a breach of duty every time and thus negligence every time.

However, at no time, has New Hampshire ever argued or proved any duty. No other state has ever identified a duty of a person away from the city owing a duty to the state to be good.

If the failure to be good is so great it violates a criminal act, that is another story. A criminal act is action so bad it causes harm to an individual or society. So, is New Hampshire arguing that an individual causing a financial loss to the state is breaching a duty to the state? Absurd!

This is how the court explained the duty of care in this case.

Also plain is that the statute imposes as the duty of care the common law standard of negligence, which we have defined as how a reasonable person would be expected to act under the same circumstances. Thus, in order to avoid liability for search and rescue costs, the defendant must have hiked in a manner that was reasonable under all of the circumstances.

Hiking in a manner that is reasonable under all circumstances” If this is the standard of care, then every hiker in New Hampshire is violating the standard of care. What is reasonable? In this case, there was no expert testimony as to the reasonableness of what the defendant did. Is it reasonable to step on a rock that may roll causing the hiker to fall. Or is it reasonable to step in the mud and water between the rocks suffering foot injury, cold and other injuries.

If you can’t Hike in a Manner that is Reasonable under ALL Circumstances, don’t go to New Hampshire.

The court continued to justify its findings.

As previously stated, a person violates RSA 206:26-bb by not acting as a reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances. The defendant argues that he did not act negligently because he was prepared for the conditions, physically capable, had proper equipment, and had adequately planned his hike. The trial court concluded to the contrary when it found that the defendant did not act as a reasonably prudent hiker would have acted under the same circumstances.

What more is needed to hike other than prepared for the conditions, physically capable and proper equipment? The 10 essentials (which there are hundreds of versions of) seems to be covered here.

However, the court found the defendant was not reasonable because of his prior injuries.

…the defendant had undergone multiple hip surgeries; he had an artificial hip that had dislocated five times, twice within the year prior to his hike; he had trained in a city park that did not remotely resemble the challenging terrain he would experience in the White Mountains; he had continued his hike despite the fact that bad weather had been forecast days in advance and that he encountered high winds and rain early into his hike; and he chose to jump backward over a rock ledge he was unable to pass, despite his artificial hip and experience with hip dislocation.

So, anyone with any prior injury should not hike in New Hampshire because that is proof, they are hiking in a reasonable manner under all circumstances.

I wonder what the Americans with Disabilities Act says about that?

And because the defendant had had prior injuries, it was foreseeable as determined by the NH Fish & Game and the court that he would get injured again.

To the extent that the defendant argues that his injury was not foreseeable, we agree with the trial court’s conclusions that the defendant’s injury was foreseeable and directly caused his need to be rescued by the Department.

This explains why there are no professional sports teams in New Hampshire, they would spend the off-season in court. Fans could sue any team arguing that since they played previously injured players, they were negligent in playing them in New Hampshire.

So Now What?

What is the real issue? The real issue is this puts rescuers at greater risk. Instead of calling at 2:00 PM in the afternoon when the weather is sunny and nice, a victim waits and calls when they are desperate, 2:00 AM. Darkness, bad weather, and little sleep put rescuers at greater risk of becoming injured in a rescue. Charging for a rescue puts rescuers at risk!

Besides the simple fact that charging for rescues increases the risk to the people in trouble and the rescuers, New Hampshire continues to do so. Either to keep people from recreating in the state or because the Legislators & the Courts are not too bright or refuse to understand.

To not pay New Hampshire for a rescue, recreate in a state other than New Hampshire.

Boycott New Hampshire

#BoycottNewHampshire

For additional Articles & Support on this subject see:

Who Charges for Search and Rescue?    http://rec-law.us/xtM6hp

Update: Give me a break! Teen charged $25K for a rescue he did not need    http://rec-law.us/zndiA7

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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N.H. Fish & Game Dep’t v. Bacon, 167 N.H. 591, 116 A.3d 1060, 2015 N.H. LEXIS 34

N.H. Fish & Game Dep’t v. Bacon, 167 N.H. 591, 116 A.3d 1060, 2015 N.H. LEXIS 34 

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

January 15, 2015, Argued; April 30, 2015, Opinion Issued

No. 2014-158

New Hampshire Fish and Game Department v. Edward Bacon

Prior History:  [***1]  6th Circuit Court — Concord District Division.

NEW HAMPSHIRE OFFICIAL REPORTS HEADNOTES

NH1.[] 1.

Negligence > Standard of Care > Ordinary and Reasonable Care

The search and rescue response statute plainly is intended to create a statutory cause of action in favor of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to recover the costs it incurs in conducting a search and rescue operation for a person whose negligent conduct required such an operation. Whether or not a common law duty exists, a plaintiff may maintain an action directly under a statute if a statutory cause of action is either expressed or implied by the legislature. Also plain is that the statute imposes as the duty of care the common law standard of negligence, which has been defined as how a reasonable person would be expected to act under the same circumstances. Thus, in order to avoid liability for search and rescue costs, the defendant must have acted in a manner that was reasonable under all of the circumstances. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in using the common law standard of negligence to evaluate defendant’s conduct under the statute. RSA 206:26-bb.

NH2.[] 2.

Appeal and Error > Standards of Review > Generally

The court will uphold the trial court’s findings and rulings unless they lack evidentiary support or are legally erroneous. It is within the province of the trial court to accept or reject, in whole or in part, whatever evidence was presented, including that of the expert witnesses. The standard of review is not whether the court would rule differently than the trial court, but whether a reasonable person could have reached the same decision as the trial court based upon the same evidence. Thus, the court defers to the trial court’s judgment on such issues as resolving conflicts in the testimony, measuring the credibility of witnesses, and determining the weight to be given evidence.

NH3.[] 3.

Negligence > Proceedings > Generally

In determining that a hiker was liable under the search and rescue response statute for his rescue costs, the trial court properly found that he was negligent when he had undergone multiple hip surgeries, had an artificial hip that had dislocated five times, had trained in a city park that did not remotely resemble the challenging mountain terrain he [*592]  would experience, had continued his hike despite the fact that bad weather had been forecast days in advance and when he encountered high winds and rain early on, and chose to jump backward over a rock ledge he was unable to pass. RSA 206:26-bb.

NH4.[] 4.

Negligence > Proximate Cause > Tests and Standards

To establish proximate cause a plaintiff must show that the defendant’s conduct caused or contributed to cause the harm.

NH5.[] 5.

Damages > Practice and Procedure > Generally

In reviewing damage awards, the court will consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party. Furthermore, the court will not disturb the decision of the fact-finder unless it is clearly erroneous. The law does not require absolute certainty for recovery of damages. The court does, however, require an indication that the award of damages was reasonable.

NH6.[] 6.

Negligence > Damages > Particular Cases

The damage award of $9,186.38 against a rescued hiker who was found to have been negligent under the search and rescue response statute was reasonable when it represented the costs for the 15 people who participated in the rescue, including overtime, mileage, and benefits. The hiker’s argument that the Fish and Game Department employees were on duty and would have been paid regardless of their participation in the rescue failed to take into account the overtime paid, and also ignored the fact that by being diverted to the rescue operation, the employees were unable to perform their other assigned duties. RSA 206:26-bb.

NH7.[] 7.

Environment and Natural Resources > Game and Fish > Particular Matters

The search and rescue response statute specifically states that the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is to receive the reasonable costs associated with a rescue. Nothing in the statute otherwise limits the Department’s recovery, and the court will not add limiting language to the statute that the legislature did not include. RSA 206:26-bb.

NH8.[] 8.

Statutes > Generally > Legislative History or Intent

A court interprets legislative intent from the statute as written and will not consider what the legislature might have said or add language that the legislature did not see fit to include.

Counsel: Joseph A. Foster, attorney general (Philip B. Bradley, assistant attorney general, on the brief and orally), for the State.
Seufert, Davis & Hunt, PLLC, of Franklin (Brad C. Davis on the brief and orally), for the defendant.

Judges: LYNN, J. DALIANIS, C.J., and HICKS, CONBOY, and BASSETT, JJ., concurred.

Opinion by: LYNN

Opinion

 [**1062]  Lynn, J. The defendant, Edward Bacon, appeals an order of the Circuit Court (Boyle, J.), following a bench trial, finding that he violated RSA 206:26-bb (2011) (amended 2014) by acting negligently while hiking, so as to require a search and rescue effort by the plaintiff, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (Department), and that he, thus, was responsible to the Department for the reasonable costs associated with the search and rescue. We affirm.

I

The following facts are established by the record. On September 16, 2012, the defendant began a five-day solo hiking trip in the White [*593]  Mountains, during which he planned to hike several mountains with summits over 5,000 feet. At the time of the hike, the defendant was fifty-nine years old, had undergone four hip surgeries since 2005, and had an artificial hip that had dislocated on five occasions, twice [***2]  during the prior year. The defendant also had a “bad back” and was taking a variety of medications for multiple ailments. In preparation for his hike, the defendant trained in a city park in Michigan, which had 250-foot hills and some “gravelly” spots. The conditions on the Franconia Ridge Trail between Liberty and Little Haystack Mountains, on which the rescuers eventually located the defendant, are rocky and steep in various locations.

 [**1063]  On September 18, the defendant left the Liberty Springs campsite to begin a planned hike to the summits of Liberty, Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette Mountains; he planned to end at the Greenleaf Hut, which provides overnight accommodations to hikers. Days in advance, stormy weather had been forecast for the morning the defendant began the hike, and rain began a few hours after he departed the campsite. A bit later, the defendant’s pack cover “on its own accord came off and flew away in the wind.” Sergeant Brad Morse, a Conservation Officer with the Department who helped rescue the defendant, testified that the winds were among the worst he had ever experienced in that part of the Franconia Ridge Trail and had repeatedly blown him to the ground. [***3]  Sometime that morning, the defendant slipped on loose gravel, slid down the trail, hit his pack on a rock, and lost his tent which fell down a ravine. At noon time, the defendant took a photograph of two other hikers he encountered on the trail, both of whom were wearing full rain gear with their hoods over their heads.

At around 1:00 p.m., the defendant encountered a waist-high rock ledge that he needed to traverse in order to continue on the trail. He attempted to jump backward up onto the ledge and, in the process, fell and dislocated his hip. Approximately one hour later, Morse received an alert that a hiker had dislocated his hip and needed assistance. He responded immediately and eventually located the defendant on the trail between Little Haystack and Lincoln Mountains. Morse testified that when he found the defendant his left leg was flexed and internally rotated, the very position that the defendant’s orthopedic surgeon had warned him to avoid due to his hip replacement.

Approximately fifteen Department personnel and thirty-five volunteers participated in the defendant’s rescue during the afternoon and evening of September 18 and into the early morning hours of September 19. [***4]  When Lieutenant James Kneeland visited the defendant in the hospital after his rescue, the defendant explained that he had misread the weather report: he thought the forecast called for 30-40 mph winds with gusts up to 70 mph and heavy rain, instead of the actual forecast of 30-40 mph winds increasing [*594]  to 70 mph and heavy rain. The defendant also told Kneeland that he had caught his left leg while attempting to jump backward up onto a rock ledge and dislocated his artificial hip when he fell.

The defendant testified to a different version of events at trial. For instance, he testified that he was unaware of the weather conditions on the day of the hike because he did not have his reading glasses with him, and that he did not encounter any significant rain or wind. Additionally, he testified that when he dislocated his hip he had not fallen, as he told Kneeland, but instead had jumped backward over a rock ledge and swung his legs up while perfectly maintaining his left leg to avoid flexion and internal rotation.

At the close of the trial, the court accepted closing memoranda from both parties. Thereafter, the court found for the Department “for all of the reasons cited in the plaintiff’s [***5]  closing memorandum,” and awarded the Department $9,334.86 in damages. The defendant filed a motion to reconsider, to which the Department objected. The court denied the defendant’s motion, stating that “[t]he actions of the defendant were a gross deviation from those of a reasonable person that surpasses the [negligence] standard required.” This appeal followed.

II

The defendant raises three arguments on appeal. First, he argues that the trial  [**1064]  court erred by judging his conduct under an ordinary negligence standard which, he asserts, is not the standard mandated by RSA 206:26-bb. Second, he argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the court’s finding that his actions while hiking were negligent, thus necessitating his rescue by the Department. Third, he argues that the court’s damages award was improper under RSA 206:26-bb because the award included recovery for expenses that the Department would have incurred regardless of its effort to rescue him. We address each argument in turn.

A

The defendant first argues that the court erred by applying the ordinary negligence standard to determine his liability under RSA 206:26-bb. He characterizes this standard as “incorrect,” and asserts that the court should instead have [***6]  applied “the full and complete” civil standard of negligence, although he fails to articulate how this standard differs from the standard of “ordinary negligence.”

To resolve this issue we must engage in statutory interpretation. HN1[] “Statutory interpretation is a question of law, which we review de novo.” [*595] 
Appeal of Local Gov’t Ctr., 165 N.H. 790, 804, 85 A.3d 388 (2014). “In matters of statutory interpretation, we are the final arbiter of the intent of the legislature as expressed in the words of the statute considered as a whole.” Id. “We first look to the language of the statute itself, and, if possible, construe that language according to its plain and ordinary meaning.” Id. “We interpret legislative intent from the statute as written and will not consider what the legislature might have said or add language that the legislature did not see fit to include.” Id. “We construe all parts of a statute together to effectuate its overall purpose and avoid an absurd or unjust result.” Id.

NH[1][] [1] We have not previously had occasion to construe the search and rescue response statute. It provides, in pertinent part:

HN2[] I. [A]ny person determined by the department to have acted negligently in requiring a search and rescue response by the department shall be liable to the department [***7]  for the reasonable cost of the department’s expenses for such search and rescue response. The executive director shall bill the responsible person for such costs. Payment shall be made to the department within 30 days after the receipt of the bill, or by some other date determined by the executive director. If any person shall fail or refuse to pay the costs … the department may pursue payment by legal action … .

RSA 206:26-bb. HN3[] This statute plainly is intended to create a statutory cause of action in favor of the Department to recover the costs it incurs in conducting a search and rescue operation for a person whose negligent conduct required such an operation. See Marquay v. Eno, 139 N.H. 708, 714, 662 A.2d 272 (1995) (“Whether or not a common law duty exists, … a plaintiff may maintain an action directly under [a] statute if a statutory cause of action is either expressed or implied by the legislature.”). Also plain is that the statute imposes as the duty of care the common law standard of negligence, which we have defined as how a reasonable person would be expected to act under the same circumstances. See Gelinas v. Metropolitan Prop. & Liability Ins. Co., 131 N.H. 154, 161, 551 A.2d 962 (1988). Thus, in order to avoid liability for search and rescue costs, the defendant must have hiked in a manner that was reasonable under [***8]  all of the circumstances. Accordingly, we hold that the trial court did not err in using the common law standard of negligence to  [**1065]  evaluate the defendant’s conduct under RSA 206:26-bb.

B

The defendant next argues that there was insufficient evidence upon which to find that he acted negligently, resulting in his need for rescue by [*596]  the Department. In particular, the defendant takes issue with the fact that the trial court’s order stated that it found for the Department “for all of the reasons cited in the plaintiff’s closing memorandum.” He asserts that, in so doing, the court improperly adopted as its findings the facts recited in the Department’s memorandum — which facts, he claims, are not supported by the evidence. We disagree.

NH[2][] [2] HN4[] We will uphold the trial court’s findings and rulings unless they lack evidentiary support or are legally erroneous. Cook v. Sullivan, 149 N.H. 774, 780, 829 A.2d 1059 (2003). “It is within the province of the trial court to accept or reject, in whole or in part, whatever evidence was presented, including that of the expert witnesses.” Id. “Our standard of review is not whether we would rule differently than the trial court, but whether a reasonable person could have reached the same decision as the trial court based upon the same [***9]  evidence.” Id. “Thus, we defer to the trial court’s judgment on such issues as resolving conflicts in the testimony, measuring the credibility of witnesses, and determining the weight to be given evidence.” Id.

We first consider the defendant’s argument that the trial court’s findings are not supported by the evidence because the court adopted the Department’s closing memorandum, which he claims relied upon findings that were also not supported by the evidence. Having reviewed both the evidence presented at trial and the Department’s closing memorandum, we reject the defendant’s argument that the Department’s closing memorandum was not supported by the evidence.

NH[3][] [3] We next consider whether there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s determination that the defendant acted negligently. As previously stated, a person violates RSA 206:26-bb by not acting as a reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances. The defendant argues that he did not act negligently because he was prepared for the conditions, physically capable, had proper equipment, and had adequately planned his hike. The trial court concluded to the contrary when it found that the defendant did not act as a reasonably [***10]  prudent hiker would have acted under the same circumstances. The following facts, recited by the Department in its memorandum and based upon the evidence, support the trial court’s conclusion: the defendant had undergone multiple hip surgeries; he had an artificial hip that had dislocated five times, twice within the year prior to his hike; he had trained in a city park that did not remotely resemble the challenging terrain he would experience in the White Mountains; he had continued his hike despite the fact that bad weather had been forecast days in advance and that he encountered high winds and rain early into his hike; and he chose to jump backward over a rock ledge he was unable to pass, despite his artificial hip and experience with hip dislocation.

 [*597] NH[4][] [4] To the extent that the defendant argues that his injury was not foreseeable, we agree with the trial court’s conclusions that the defendant’s injury was foreseeable and directly caused his need to be rescued by the Department. See Estate of Joshua T. v. State, 150 N.H. 405, 408, 840 A.2d 768 (2003) (stating that HN5[] to establish proximate cause a plaintiff must show “that the defendant’s conduct caused or contributed to cause the harm”). For the foregoing reasons  [**1066]  we conclude that the trial court’s determination [***11]  that the defendant acted negligently does not lack evidentiary support and is not legally erroneous. See Cook, 149 N.H. at 780. Accordingly, we uphold the trial court’s ruling.

C

Finally, the defendant argues that the court’s damages award was improper because it included wages and mileage for on-duty Department officers who would have been paid regardless of their participation in the rescue operation. In essence, he claims that the damages provide a windfall to the Department. We disagree.

NH[5][] [5] HN6[] “In reviewing damage awards, we will consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party.” Gallentine v. Geis, 145 N.H. 701, 703, 765 A.2d 696 (2001) (quotation and brackets omitted). “Furthermore, we will not disturb the decision of the fact-finder unless it is clearly erroneous.” Id. (quotation omitted). “The law does not require ‘absolute certainty’ for recovery of damages.” Id. (quotation omitted). “We do, however, require an indication that the award of damages was reasonable.” Id.
RSA 206:26-bb states that “any person determined by the department to have acted negligently in requiring a search and rescue response by the department shall be liable to the department for the reasonable cost of the department’s expenses for such search and rescue response.” (Emphasis [***12]  added.)

NH[6][] [6] The trial court awarded $9,186.38 in damages to the Department, plus costs and interest. At trial, Kneeland testified that this amount represented the Department’s costs for the fifteen personnel who participated in the rescue, and included overtime, mileage, and benefits. These figures were contained in a document entitled “Search and Rescue Mission Report,” which was admitted by stipulation as a full exhibit. This detailed, itemized report, when viewed in the light most favorable to the Department, indicates that the trial court’s damages award represented the “reasonable costs” associated with the rescue, as required by RSA 206:26-bb.

NH[7,8][] [7, 8] We reject the defendant’s argument that this sum provides a windfall to the Department because certain officers were on duty and thus would have been paid regardless of their participation in his rescue. Not only does this argument fail to take into account the overtime paid to [*598]  Department employees who would not have worked in the absence of the rescue, but it also ignores the fact that, by being diverted to the rescue operation, Department employees were unable to perform their other assigned duties. HN7[] The statute specifically states that the Department is [***13]  to receive the “reasonable costs” associated with the rescue. RSA 206:26-bb. Nothing in the statute otherwise limits the Department’s recovery, and we will not add limiting language to the statute that the legislature did not include. See Appeal of Local Gov’t Ctr., 165 N.H. at 804 (HN8[] “We interpret legislative intent from the statute as written and will not consider what the legislature might have said or add language that the legislature did not see fit to include.”). Because the trial court’s damages award of $9,186.38, plus costs and interest, is reasonable, and thus is not clearly erroneous, we uphold it.

Affirmed.

Dalianis, C.J., and Hicks, Conboy, and Bassett, JJ., concurred.


Morgan et al., v. Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ et al., 2012-Ohio-453; 2012 Ohio App. LEXIS 385

Brian Morgan et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 11AP-405

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

2012-Ohio-453; 2012 Ohio App. LEXIS 385

February 7, 2012, Rendered

PRIOR HISTORY: [**1]

APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. (C.P.C. No. 10CVC-03-4516).

DISPOSITION: Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL: Rourke & Blumenthal, LLP, Kenneth S. Blumenthal and Jonathan R. Stoudt; Cloppert, Latanick, Sauter & Washburn, and Robert L. Washburn, for appellants.

Philipp & Gregory, Ronald D. Gregory and Jeffrey T. Peters, for appellees.

JUDGES: DORRIAN, J. KLATT and SADLER, JJ., concur.

OPINION BY: DORRIAN

OPINION

(ACCELERATED CALENDAR)

DECISION

DORRIAN, J.

[*P1] Plaintiffs-appellants, Brian Morgan (“Morgan”) and his wife Amie Morgan (collectively “appellants”), appeal from the April 4, 2011 judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in favor of defendants-appellees, Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ (“OCUCC”) and Templed Hills Camp and Conference Center (“Templed Hills”) (collectively “appellees”). For the following reasons, we affirm.

[*P2] On November 12, 13, and 14, 2007, Morgan was scheduled to attend the Nature’s Classroom program at Templed Hills as a teacher chaperone for sixth grade students of Worthington City Schools. The school district contracted with the owner of the site, OCUCC, to send the students. The contract set forth a fee of $7,565 for the group’s participation. (Affidavit of Mark Glassbrenner, [**2] ¶4; Exhibit A-A to Affidavit.) On the evening of November 13, Morgan volunteered to act as a chaperone on one of the group’s night hikes. Morgan had chaperoned students annually from approximately 2002 to 2007 and attended the night hike every year. The night hike had originally been scheduled for the evening of November 12, but was postponed to the second evening due to rain. (Affidavit of Kristi Patrick, ¶6; Affidavit of Kathy Mikkelson, ¶6.)

[*P3] The night hike was led by Matthew Marsh (“Marsh”), a Nature’s Classroom instructor. Marsh testified that the purpose of the night hike was to use your other senses when your eyes were not as heightened as during the daylight. Marsh picked the trail and had been using that same trail for the night hikes he had been leading twice a week for the last seven months. It was an established trail and wider than shoulder length. Other trails on the property were harder to traverse. Marsh stated that the evening was a clear night, not cloudy, and the moon was out so the trail could be seen. The adults were also told to bring flashlights.

[*P4] The group met at approximately 7:30 p.m. and started with a game called “Bat & Moth,” where one child is blindfolded [**3] and the children attempt to escape. It is similar to the game Marco Polo. The game lasted approximately 20 to 25 minutes, after which the group entered the woods. After several minutes of hiking, they had to cross a creek bed, but it was a receding creek so there was not much water in it. Marsh stood in the middle of the creek bed on a rock with his flashlight and helped every child cross by holding their hand, and then he helped Morgan cross. While Marsh was counting the kids on the other side of the creek, he saw Morgan shift his weight and fall on his stomach. Marsh tried to call his supervisor on his radio and his cell phone but could not reach her. Then he called 911. When the EMTs arrived, Marsh took the students to an area away from Morgan.

[*P5] Morgan testified to a slightly different version of facts. He had never been on that particular trail and thought it was very overgrown. He was not advised to take a flashlight on the hike and remembered the night being cloudy. Morgan testified that as he approached the creek Marsh was there to help him cross and had a flashlight. Morgan did not remember specifically, but thinks he used Marsh’s shoulder to step on a tree stump or rock as [**4] he took a long stride to cross the creek. After a few seconds, Marsh gave some directions for the next activity and Morgan took a step with his right foot, lost traction and fell. He knew immediately that he was seriously injured. Morgan suffered severe injuries to his left arm and shoulder. Morgan testified he had to ask Marsh to call 911 several times before Marsh called them.

[*P6] Morgan and his wife filed a complaint against OCUCC and Templed Hills as the owners and operators of the site and the employers of Marsh for damages Morgan suffered resulting from Marsh’s negligence, as well as for Amie Morgan’s loss of consortium. A stipulation of dismissal pursuant to Civ.R. 41 was filed.

[*P7] The claim was refiled on March 22, 2010. Appellees filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that appellants’ claims were barred by the affirmative defense of primary assumption of the risk and by the Ohio recreational user statute, R.C. 1533.181. Appellees argued that Morgan assumed the risk of his injury by voluntarily participating in the night hike and that, under the circumstances, appellees owed no duty to protect Morgan from injury. Appellees also argued that Ohio’s recreational statute, R.C. 1533.181, [**5] barred his claims because Morgan was a recreational user and, as such, appellees owed no duty to Morgan as a hiker pursuant to the statute.

[*P8] In opposition to appellees’ motion, Morgan argued that the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk does not bar his cause of action, as the dangers presented by Marsh’s negligence were not inherent to hiking. Also, Morgan argued that the recreational user statute was inapplicable to these facts because the negligence alleged was based on the negligence of an employee, not a theory of premises liability. Additionally, Morgan claimed he was not a recreational user because he was a business invitee.

[*P9] By decision and entry filed April 4, 2011, the trial court granted appellees’ motion for summary judgment finding that the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk barred appellants’ claims. The doctrine removed any duty on appellees’ part to protect Morgan from risks inherent to the activity of night hiking.

[*P10] Appellants assert one assignment of error on appeal:

The trial court erred in granting the motion for summary judgment filed by the Appellees Ohio Conference United Church of Christ and Templed Hills holding that the doctrine of primary assumption [**6] of the risk bars Plaintiffs from recovering on their claims for negligence and loss of consortium.

[*P11] In their assignment of error, appellants challenge the granting of the motion for summary judgment, contending that the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk is inapplicable to these facts. [HN1] By asserting a negligence action, appellants were required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that appellees owed them a duty of care, that the duty was breached and that the breach proximately caused Morgan’s injuries. Strother v. Hutchinson, 67 Ohio St.2d 282, 285, 423 N.E.2d 467 (1981). Under the law of negligence, a defendant’s duty to a plaintiff depends on the relationship between the parties and the foreseeability of injury to someone in the plaintiff’s position. Simmers v. Bentley Constr. Co., 64 Ohio St.3d 642, 645, 1992 Ohio 42, 597 N.E.2d 504 (1992).

[*P12] [HN2] The doctrine of primary assumption of the risk has often been applied to cases involving sporting events and recreational activities. Crace v. Kent State Univ., 185 Ohio App. 3d 534, 2009 Ohio 6898, ¶12, 924 N.E.2d 906, citing Ballinger v. Leaniz Roofing, Ltd., 10th Dist. No. 07AP-696, 2008 Ohio 1421, ¶8, 2008 WL 802722, citing Anderson v. Ceccardi, 6 Ohio St.3d 110, 114, 6 Ohio B. 170, 451 N.E.2d 780 (1983). Whether to [**7] apply the affirmative defense of primary assumption of the risk presents an issue of law for the court to determine. Crace at ¶12, citing Gallagher v. Cleveland Browns Football Co., 74 Ohio St.3d 427, 435, 1996 Ohio 320, 659 N.E.2d 1232 (1996). We therefore review the trial court’s decision de novo. Crace at ¶12, citing Cleveland Elec. Illum. Co. v. Pub. Util. Comm., 76 Ohio St. 3d 521, 523, 1996 Ohio 298, 668 N.E.2d 889 (1996), citing Indus. Energy Consumers of Ohio Power Co. v. Pub. Utils. Comm., 68 Ohio St. 3d 559, 563, 1994 Ohio 435, 629 N.E.2d 423 (1994).

[*P13] [HN3] Under the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk, a plaintiff who voluntarily engages in a recreational activity or sporting event assumes the inherent risks of that activity and cannot recover for injuries sustained in engaging in the activity unless the defendant acted recklessly or intentionally in causing the injuries. Crace at ¶13, citing Santho v. Boy Scouts of Am., 168 Ohio App. 3d 27, 2006 Ohio 3656, ¶12, 857 N.E.2d 1255. The doctrine is based on the fiction that the plaintiff has “tacitly consented” to the risk of injury inherent in the activity. Collier v. Northland Swim Club, 35 Ohio App.3d 35, 37, 518 N.E.2d 1226 (10th Dist.1987). The rationale behind the doctrine is that certain risks are so intrinsic in some activities that the risk of injury [**8] is unavoidable. Crace at ¶13, citing Collier. The test for applying the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk to recreational activities and sporting events 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.” Santho at ¶12.

[*P14] [HN4] The affirmative defense of primary assumption of the risk completely negates a negligence claim because the defendant owes no duty to protect the plaintiff against the inherent risks of the recreational activity in which the plaintiff engages. Crace at ¶15, citing Gentry v. Craycraft, 101 Ohio St.3d 141, 144, 2004 Ohio 379, 802 N.E.2d 1116, citing Prosser & Keeton, Law of Torts (5th Ed.1984) 496, Section 68; see also Gallagher at 431, citing Prosser & Keeton, 496-97, Section 28 (“Primary assumption of risk ‘is really a principle of no duty, or no negligence, and so denies the existence of any underlying cause of action.'”). Primary assumption of the risk serves to negate the duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff. Wolfe v. Bison Baseball, Inc., 10th Dist. No. 09AP-905, 2010 Ohio 1390, ¶18, 2010 WL 254597. “Because a successful [**9] primary assumption of risk defense means that the duty element of negligence is not established as a matter of law, the defense prevents the plaintiff from even making a prima facie case.” Id. at ¶21, citing Gallagher at 431-32.

[*P15] [HN5] With the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk, the injured plaintiff’s subjective consent to and appreciation for the inherent risks of the recreational activity are immaterial to the analysis. Crace, 185 Ohio App. 3d 534, ¶16, citing Gentry at 144. The types of risks inherent to an activity are those risks that are foreseeable and customary risks of the sport or recreational activity. Deutsch v. Birk, 189 Ohio App. 3d 129, 2010 Ohio 3564, ¶12 (937 N.E.2d 638, 12th Dist.), citing Thompson v. McNeill, 53 Ohio St.3d 102, 104-106, 559 N.E.2d 705 (1990). In accordance with these principles, this court held in Gehri v. Capital Racing Club, Inc., 10th Dist. No. 96APE10-1307, 1997 Ohio App. LEXIS 2527, 1997 WL 324175 (June 12, 1997), that “primary assumption of [the] risk requires an examination of the activity itself and not plaintiff’s conduct. If the activity is one that is inherently dangerous and from which the risks cannot be eliminated, then a finding of primary assumption of [the] risk is appropriate.” 1997 Ohio App. LEXIS 2527, [WL] at *4. [**10] “The law simply deems certain risks as accepted by the plaintiff regardless of actual knowledge or consent.” Crace at ¶16. The focus in primary assumption of the risk is on the defendant’s conduct, whether such conduct was reckless or intentional. Gentry at ¶9.

[*P16] In the instant case, the trial court noted that hiking is a recreational activity to which the doctrine applies, and hiking contains an inherent risk of slipping, tripping or falling that cannot be eliminated, even more so with hiking at night. (Apr. 4, 2011 Decision, 2.) Appellants argue that primary assumption of the risk does not apply to these facts because the risks which led to the injury in this case could have been eliminated if Marsh had chosen a different trail. However, this is essentially a claim that Marsh’s conduct was reckless. In Marchetti v. Kalish, 53 Ohio St.3d 95, 100, 559 N.E.2d 699 (1990), fn. 3, the Supreme Court of Ohio cited the comments f and g to Section 500 of the Restatement of Torts 2d, 590, which defined the three mental states of tortious conduct, as follows:

f. Intentional misconduct and recklessness contrasted. [HN6] Reckless misconduct differs from intentional wrongdoing in a very important particular. While an act [**11] to be reckless must be intended by the actor, the actor does not intend to cause the harm which results from it. It is enough that he realizes or, from facts which he knows, should realize that there is a strong probability that harm may result, even though he hopes or even expects that his conduct will prove harmless. However, a strong probability is a different thing from the substantial certainty without which he cannot be said to intend the harm in which his act results.

g. Negligence and recklessness contrasted. [HN7] Reckless mis-conduct differs from negligence in several important particulars. It differs from that form of negligence which consists in mere inadvertence, incompetence, unskillfulness, or a failure to take precautions to enable the actor adequately to cope with a possible or probable future emergency, in that reckless misconduct requires a conscious choice of a course of action, either with knowledge of the serious danger to others involved in it or with knowledge of facts which would disclose this danger to any reasonable man. It differs not only from the above-mentioned form of negligence, but also from that negligence which consists in intentionally doing an act with [**12] knowledge that it contains a risk of harm to others, in that the actor to be reckless must recognize that his conduct involves a risk substantially greater in amount than that which is necessary to make his conduct negligent. The difference between reckless misconduct and conduct involving only such a quantum of risk as is necessary to make it negligent is a difference in the degree of the risk, but this difference of degree is so marked as to amount substantially to a difference in kind.

[*P17] Appellants argue that Marsh should have chosen a different path for the hikers that evening. However, appellants did not allege that Marsh was reckless in choosing that path. The trial court specifically found that [HN8] hiking, especially night hiking, involves the risk of tripping, slipping and falling. Hiking does involve these risks. Morgan volunteered to participate in the night hike and assumed these risks. The court in Shaner v. Smoot, 7th Dist. No. 712, 2001 Ohio 3429, 2001 WL 1243920, found that persons involved in recreational activities assume the ordinary risks of the activity and the failure to warn of the ordinary risks does not subject one to liability. In Shaner, the plaintiff was injured [**13] while riding a motorcycle in tall grass with tree stumps scattered throughout the area. The plaintiff was aware that there were tree stumps in the area where he was riding. However, the court found that the risk of hitting a tree stump was an ordinary risk of riding a motorcycle in such a location, and the defendants could not be liable for failure to warn of an ordinary risk assumed by the plaintiff.

[*P18] Appellants concede that there are risks inherent in hiking that cannot be avoided. However, appellants contend that the risks which led to Morgan’s particular injury could have been avoided if Marsh had picked a trail which was better maintained with less-demanding obstacles. Thus, appellants argue, implied assumption of the risk is more appropriate to these facts, which has been merged into Ohio’s comparative negligence statute, R.C. 2315.19. However, these risks were not risks out of the ordinary for night hiking.

[*P19] In California, the courts have addressed similar issues and applied primary assumption of the risk, finding that a defendant is only liable for a plaintiff’s injuries if the defendant’s conduct is reckless or totally outside the range of the ordinary activity involved in the [**14] sport or activity. In Andia v. Full Service Travel, S.D.Cal. No. 06cv0437 WQH (JMA), 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88247, 2007 WL 4258634 (Nov. 29, 2007), the plaintiff was a passenger on the defendant’s cruise ship and participated in a shore expedition known as the HL 15, the Kilauea Lava Viewing Hike. The plaintiff slipped on one of the rocks and fell, fracturing her foot. She filed a negligence action, and the court found that the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk applied, negating the defendant’s duty to prevent the plaintiff from slipping and falling on lava rock, an inherent risk of the activity of lava hiking.

[*P20] In Kane v. Natl. Ski Patrol Sys., Inc., 88 Cal.App.4th 204, 209, 105 Cal.Rptr.2d 600 (2001), a ski instructor led participants in a skills clinic for a voluntary ski patrol. The participants were reluctant to proceed to the most difficult portion of the trail, which was icy and contained trees, rocks, and stumps, but the instructor encouraged them to go. The two plaintiffs were injured, one fell to his death and the other one suffered a broken leg. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, holding that the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk applied, negating the defendant’s [**15] duty of care. The court held that [HN9] “an instructor’s assessment errors–either in making the necessarily subjective judgment of skill level or the equally subjective judgment about the difficulty of the conditions–are in no way ‘outside the range of the ordinary activity involved in the sport.'” Id. at 214.

[*P21] Similarly, here, any assessment error in the subjective judgment of the path chosen by the Nature’s Classroom instructor, if any, is not outside the range of the ordinary activity involved in night hiking. As we have said, tripping, slipping, and falling are inherent risks of night hikes, regardless of the trail chosen.

[*P22] In Kalter v. Grand Circle Travel, 631 F.Supp.2d 1253 (C.D.Cal.2009), the plaintiff suffered serious injuries when she fell while hiking at Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. The plaintiff filed a negligence action against the vacation tour operator, but the court applied the primary assumption of the risk doctrine, finding that hiking across uneven and challenging terrain is an inherent risk when hiking in ancient ruins, and inherent in this activity is the risk that one will fall and become injured.

[*P23] This case law from California is similar to our Ohio law. Morgan attempts [**16] to argue that the conditions which led to his injury, attempting to cross a creek up a slippery embankment in dark, wet conditions, were not inherent to hiking. However, Morgan had already crossed the creek when he fell, and the dark is inherent in night hiking regardless of the trail chosen, and the ground was wet because it had been raining the day before. That was the reason the hike had been postponed. Despite Morgan’s attempt to argue that the risks were heightened, we find, under these facts, that these risks were inherent risks to night hiking.

[*P24] Appellants rely on Byer v. Lucas, 7th Dist. No. 08AP-351, 2009 Ohio 1022, 2009 WL 581710, to argue that the risks involved here outweigh the ordinary risks involved in the recreational activity that the plaintiff was engaged. In Byer, the plaintiff filed a negligence action against the owner and driver of a tractor pulling a hay wagon as part of party festivities. The defendant was drinking alcohol at the party. The plaintiff was riding in the wagon. The defendant stopped the wagon at the top of a steep hill and advised the passengers that they could get out of the wagon and either walk down the hill or wait to be picked up by a truck [**17] to return to the party. Apparently, the plaintiff did not hear the warning and remained on the wagon. The defendant lost control of the wagon, and plaintiff was ejected and treated for severe injuries. Plaintiff filed suit alleging negligence and intentional and reckless conduct. On appeal, the court found there were risks that were not ordinary, customary, or foreseeable to a hayride.

[*P25] Ordinary risks for a hayride include “getting scratched by tree braches [sic], being bounced around on a wagon, and even losing one’s balance and falling off the wagon.” Id. at ¶30. In Byer, however, the court found risks that were out of the ordinary for a hayride, including the choice of route, the driver control and severe injuries. The driver chose to drive down the steep hill while another driver took a safer route. The tractor and wagon careened down the hill out of control. Many passengers were thrown from the wagon. Finally, the plaintiff suffered severe injuries including cuts to her head, requiring stitches, and two segments of her tailbone were fractured.

[*P26] The choice of route, down a steep hill, the out-of-control nature of the ride and the injuries the plaintiff received were not risks that [**18] would be expected from a hayride. The court found that “a farm tractor and its wagon cascading down a steep hill out of control and jackknifing to a stop throwing passengers from it is not an inherent risk of a hayride.” Id. at ¶39. Thus, the court found primary assumption of the risk inapplicable. But Byer is distinguishable from the case at hand. The court in Byer found the risks were not inherent to the recreational activity, whereas here, we find the risks were inherent to night hiking. Also in Byer, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s conduct was intentional or reckless. Here, the only allegation is that Marsh’s conduct was negligent. Thus, the facts of Byer distinguish it from the facts at hand.

[*P27] Under the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk, appellees owed no duty to protect appellants from the inherent risks of injury related to the night hike. Since the primary assumption of the risk negates the duty element of appellants’ negligence claim, appellants are precluded from making a prima facie case of negligence, and the trial court did not err in granting appellees’ motion for summary judgment. Amie Morgan’s claim also fails because it is dependent upon her husband’s [**19] successful claim. Appellants’ assignment of error is overruled.

[*P28] For the foregoing reasons, appellants’ assignment of error is overruled, and we affirm the judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

Judgment affirmed.

KLATT and SADLER, JJ., concur.

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In Ohio, Primary Assumption of the Risk is a complete bar to claims for injuries from hiking at night.

This decision held that falling down while hiking at night was an inherent risk of hiking, especially at night.

Morgan et al., v. Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ et al., 2012-Ohio-453; 2012 Ohio App. LEXIS 385

Date of the Decision: February 7, 2012

Plaintiff: Brian Morgan and his wife Amie Morgan

Defendant: Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ (“OCUCC”) and Templed Hills Camp and Conference Center

Plaintiff Claims: negligence

Defendant Defenses: defendant assumed the risks of hiking at night, falling was an inherent risk of hiking

Holding: for the defendants

Ohio has a statute that requires kids to receive some of their education about the outdoors in the outdoors. This law was passed in the early 70’s. I know I was a camp counselor for one of these trips as a senior in high school.

This case comes from a school group going to a camp for outdoor classroom. The plaintiff had done this for five consecutive years, and for five years had participated as a chaperone on the “night hike.” During the night hike, after crossing a stream the plaintiff fell injuring his shoulder.

The plaintiff sued. The defendant camp filed a motion to dismiss claiming the plaintiff assumed the risk, which was granted by the court and this appeal followed. Due to the evidence presented the appellate court viewed the motion as a motion for summary judgment.

Summary of the case

The Ohio Appellate court extensively reviewed Primary Assumption of the Risk under Ohio Law.

Under the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk, a plaintiff who voluntarily engages in a recreational activity or sporting event assumes the inherent risks of that activity and cannot recover for injuries sustained in engaging in the activity unless the defendant acted recklessly or intentionally in causing the injuries. The doctrine is based on the fiction that the plaintiff has “tacitly consented” to the risk of injury inherent in the activity. The rationale behind the doctrine is that certain risks are so intrinsic in some activities that the risk of injury is unavoidable. The test for applying the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk to recreational activities and sporting events 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 effect of a court finding that the plaintiff assumed the risk as defined, by Primary Assumption of the Risk, is a complete bar to the plaintiff’s claims.

The affirmative defense of primary assumption of the risk completely negates a negligence claim because the defendant owes no duty to protect the plaintiff against the inherent risks of the recreational activity in which the plaintiff engages.

The court then explained how Primary Assumption of the Risk worked to stop a claim by the plaintiff.

Primary assumption of risk ‘is really a principle of no duty, or no negligence, and so denies the existence of any underlying cause of action. Primary assumption of the risk serves to negate the duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff. “Because a successful primary assumption of risk defense means that the duty element of negligence is not established as a matter of law, the defense prevents the plaintiff from even making a prima facie case.”

To prevail at trial, the plaintiff has to make a prima facie case. That means the plaintiff has to plead and prove enough facts to prove their case. If the defendant or the court can show the risks of the activity which caused the injury to the plaintiff were inherent to the activity, then the plaintiff is prevented from even making his or her case.

The risks of the activity that are sufficient to prove Primary Assumption of the Risk are “…types of risks inherent to an activity are those risks that are foreseeable and customary risks of the sport or recreational activity.”

The telling issue, as the court explained, is not of the actions of the parties but of the risk. “If the activity is one that is inherently dangerous and from which the risks cannot be eliminated, then a finding of primary assumption of [the] risk is appropriate.”

The court also looked at the defendant’s side of the facts. “The focus in primary assumption of the risk is on the defendant’s conduct, whether such conduct was reckless or intentional.” If the conduct of the defendant was not reckless or intentional, if the defendant did not do anything that increased the risk to the injured plaintiff in a reckless or intentional way than the defense stands.

In the instant case, the trial court noted that hiking was a recreational activity to which the doctrine applies, and hiking contains an inherent risk of slipping, tripping or falling that cannot be eliminated, even more so with hiking at night.

The court then looked at how Ohio defines tortious conduct. It came from the plaintiff’s argument that the defendant increased the risk by reckless choosing the trail that the plaintiff fell on.

Intentional misconduct and recklessness contrasted. Reckless misconduct differs from intentional wrongdoing in a very important particular. While an act to be reckless must be intended by the actor, the actor does not intend to cause the harm which results from it. It is enough that he realizes or, from facts which he knows, should realize that there is a strong probability that harm may result, even though he hopes or even expects that his conduct will prove harmless. However, a strong probability is a different thing from the substantial certainty without which he cannot be said to intend the harm in which his act results.

Negligence and recklessness contrasted. Reckless mis-conduct differs from negligence in several important particulars. It differs from that form of negligence which consists in mere inadvertence, incompetence, unskillfulness, or a failure to take precautions to enable the actor adequately to cope with a possible or probable future emergency, in that reckless misconduct requires a conscious choice of a course of action, either with knowledge of the serious danger to others involved in it or with knowledge of facts which would disclose this danger to any reasonable man. It differs not only from the above-mentioned form of negligence, but also from that negligence which consists in intentionally doing an act with knowledge that it contains a risk of harm to others, in that the actor to be reckless must recognize that his conduct involves a risk substantially greater in amount than that which is necessary to make his conduct negligent. The difference between reckless misconduct and conduct involving only such a quantum of risk as is necessary to make it negligent is a difference in the degree of the risk, but this difference of degree is so marked as to amount substantially to a difference in kind.

Because the conduct of the employee, the guide of the night hike, was not intentional or reckless, the plaintiff was prevented from brining his claims because of the defense of Primary Assumption of the Risk.

So Now What?

The issues you need to understand when looking at the risks of outdoor or recreational activities are which risks are of what type. Those risks that are not inherent in the activity are the ones that you are at the greatest risk of losing a lawsuit over unless you can prove the guest knew and assumed the risks or released you from their injury prior to the activity.

This does not mean you should not inform your guests of all the risks. On the contrary, knowledgeable guests are happier guests and usually injury-free guests. Any injury is a problem for you no matter how small and a problem for the entire group all the time.

What this means is when you list the risks of the activity you need to make sure you know which ones may need special attention for your guests. Those they do not recognize or understand which may include some inherent risks, and those that are obvious.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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