The Boy Scouts of America are not liable because they owed no duty, they did not own the camp. Negligence requires a duty, and no duty exists if you are not the owners, manager, supervisor or someone who is liable.

The BSA was dismissed because the plaintiff was unable to prove the BSA supervised, owned or managed the camp where he was injured. The BSA had no custody or control of the camp. The plaintiff also failed to argue that a rule, policy, regulation or procedure of the camp had been violated.

Gomes v. Boy Scouts of America, et al., 2013 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 4622; 2013 NY Slip Op 32453(U)

Date of the Decision: October 9, 2013

Plaintiff: Davide E. Gomes

Defendant: Boy Scouts of America, et al.,

Plaintiff Claims: failure to keep the area safe, in good repair, well-lit and free from obstruction or defect and supervise him and the other scouts

Defendant Defenses:

Holding: For the defendant Boy Scouts of America

The plaintiff, a 13-year-old Boy Scout fell leaving the shower area at a BSA council camp. He sustained injuries and sued the Boy Scouts of America and other parties.

The Boy Scouts of America moved for a dismissal claiming they were not the owners, in control of, or supervisors of the camp. The camp was owned by the Northern New Jersey Council, BSA. The Northern New Jersey Council is a separate legal entity from the Boy Scouts of America.

There was disputed testimony, whether the plaintiff was running (from witnesses) or walking along the path where he fell. It was lit inside the shower area but not lit outside. The plaintiff had a headlamp with him. During discovery, the plaintiff admitted he did not remember what happened that caused him to fall.

The BSA moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court leading to this appeal.

Summary of the case

The arguments in the case are simple. Did the Boy Scouts of America own, manage, supervise or run the camp or was the camp owned by a third party. The court referred to the legal phrase, did the BSA have “custody and control” of the camp. A Boy Scout Council is a separate and distinct entity from the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts of America grants a charter (sort of like a license) to promote and use the Boy Scout program to the youth in the council’s geographic area. Boy Scout councils own camps like this one where the plaintiff was injured. The title on the deed is Northern New Jersey Council, Boy Scouts of America, not Boy Scouts of America.

The court looked at several other cases, which found the same way.

…BSA not liable for alleged negligence of charter BSA Council as there was no agency relationship between it and Council, and it lacked requisite supervision, direction, or control over adult leader who had custody of Scouts during trip at issue….

…where plaintiff died while on Scout trip, BSA granted summary judgment as it exercised no supervisory control over troop or adult leaders who accompanied scouts on trip….

The court also quoted a decision where a Council was not liable for the acts of a volunteer because the Council did not have control over the Scoutmaster. “…absent evidence that Council had supervision or control over day-to-day activities of Scout troop or scoutmaster, it could not be held liable for scoutmaster’s alleged negligent supervision…”

What caught my eye in this decision was this statement by the court.

Here, there is no issue of very young campers being unsupervised or placed in risky circumstances as plaintiff and his fellow scouts were all teenagers and there is no evidence that any camp policy was violated or that BSA had any control over the camp’s operation.

Here the court might have ruled differently if it had found that the policy of the camp had been violated.

So Now What?

The first issue is agency or ownership. The Boy Scouts of America were not liable to the camper because the BSA did not own, supervise or manage the particular piece of property where the scout was hurt. You can’t sue someone for negligence, unless they owed a duty to you. If you don’t own, manager or supervise the place where the plaintiff was injured you can’t be negligent because you owe no duty to that person.

Of greater interest is the fact the camp had no policies that were violated, which lead to the injury of the plaintiff. As a camp director of a BSA, GSA or any other camp or operation, you need to understand that the rules, regulations, policies and procedures that you write for your camp are going to be used as the rule, the standard, against which you will be judged at trial.

Don’t write rules, policies, regulations, or policies you can’t live up to.

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Way to go Primal Wear! and the Denver Area Council of the BSA!

Denver Cycling Wear Manufacturer Primal Wear is sponsoring a BSA Cycling Merit Badge Clinic

Cycling apparel maker teams up with Boy Scouts for Merit Badge and Jersey

Primal Wear has teamed up with the Boy Scouts of America, Denver Area Council for a merit badge clinic. The clinic will take place over 16 weeks and has been limited to 20 scouts. Courses and rides will be bi-weekly and will complete individual requirements of the merit badge per session. “It’s great being able to provide a cycling program for the Scouts with Primal, one of the recognized leaders in the cycling community.” Said Dave Whitner, Denver Area Council Program Director.

In addition to the cycling merit badge program, Primal has produced a cycling jersey that is available for purchase online at The jersey is a sport cut raglan design featuring the BSA logo. The proceeds from the purchase of the jersey go to benefit the Denver Area Council.

For Information on the 16 Week Program go HERE.

Merit badge (Boy Scouts of America)

Merit badge (Boy Scouts of America) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you want to purchase the Denver Area Council Cycling Jersey with 15% of the proceeds go HERE.  It is a beautiful Jersey! Order a Jersey, look good when you ride and support Primal Wear and the Denver Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

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Adult volunteer responsibility ends when the minor is delivered back to his parents.

Thank heavens!

Berlin v. Nassau County Council, Boy Scouts of America, 229 A.D.2d 414, 645 N.Y.S.2d 90

A youth was on a trip with a Scout troop which is a program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Sometime on the trip, the minor bought a slingshot. The slingshot was confiscated by a volunteer leader on the trip. At the end of the trip, the slingshot was given to the parents of the minor.

Later the minor was playing with the slingshot with another youth, and the other youth was injured by the slingshot. Either the minor had gotten the slingshot somehow or the parents had given the slingshot back to the minor, although this was not specifically stated in the opinion.

The parents of the minor injured by the slingshot, the plaintiffs, sued the volunteer adult leaders of the trip for the minor’s injuries.

The court in a succinct and short decision held the adult volunteers were not liable for the minor’s injuries. The basis for the decision was the action of the volunteer in giving the minor back to the parents was a superseding intervening act, which stops the claim.

A superseding act, eliminates the relationship between the damages which caused the injury and the duty owed. That means negligence cannot be proven. The damages are not proximate to the duty owed. Negligence has four parts, all which must be proven:

  • A duty
  • Breach of the duty
  • Injury
  • Damages proximately caused by the breach of duty.

The court’s decision says the fourth step cannot be proven because of the superseding act. The parents taking control of their child was an intervening act which the court said did not tie the duty and the damages to together legally. Stated another way, there was no relationship between the act of the volunteer and the injury received by the minor.

The plaintiffs seem to argue that the adult volunteer should not have given the slingshot back to the parents. However, the slingshot was a possession, a piece of property owned by the minor and as such, his parents. The slingshot was given back to the owners as required by the law.


The relationship between a parent and a volunteer who is spending his or her time with the child is tenuous. As a volunteer you must be clear what your responsibilities are and are not going to be, as well as when that responsibility ends. It does not need to be so formal. It can simply be in the trip information that the kids have to be at the church by 7:00 PM and parents must pick their kids up Sunday at 2:00 PM at the church.

Most times, volunteers worry about injuries to the minor as a liability issue. There are other issues that can come up that you should be prepared to deal with.

Search and Rescue costs if a minor is lost can be substantial. (See No Charge for Rescue). Damages to property or injury to other minors can create liability for the adult volunteer responsible. A forest fire started by a minor can be costly. Even though most state courts will not allow a parent to release the claims of a minor for injuries, courts will allow releases or contracts where the parent agrees to pay for other claims the minor may create.

You can inform the parent and make sure they understand (meaning a written document) that they are responsible for any damages the minor may create for a reason other than injuries to themselves. I would include damages for the minor’s injuries on a different form. You do not want the court to throughout one release for the minor’s injuries when what you needed was protection for the damages done for the minors.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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