Posted: December 11, 2017 | Author: Recreation Law | Filed under: Minors, Youth, Children, New Jersey, Summer Camp | Tags: Apparent Authority, appearance of authority, Brochure, campers, citation omitted, Contractor, discovery, Duty of care, genuine, golf, Golf Camp, golf club, hired, home builder, Independent Contractor, logo, Marketing, master-servant, minor child, mouth, New Jersey Professional Golf Association, NOLS, non-moving, Outward Bound, PGA NJPGA, planning, Professional Golf Association, professional golfer, renewed, Respondeat Superior, servant, Standard of review, Summary judgment, Summer Camp, supposed, YMCA, Youth Camp |
The use of the PGA name was not enough to tie the PGA to a golf camp where they had no relationship or control. As such, they were dismissed from the suit because they had no duty to the injured minor.
Choi and Keane v. Hunterdon County YMCA, Inc., et. al., 2017 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2737
State: New Jersey, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division
Plaintiff: Seung Yon Choi and Gerald J. Keane on behalf of E.K., a Minor as Guardian Ad Litem, and Seung Yon Choi, and Gerald J. Keane, individually, Plaintiffs-Appellants
Defendant: Hunterdon County YMCA, Inc., Michael Trianio, Chris Nallen, Alex Baker, Erica Croat, The New Jersey Professional Golfers Association, Inc. (NJPGA), James Mullen, Defendants, and The Professional Golfers Association, Inc.
Plaintiff Claims: negligent supervision
Defendant Defenses: no relationship to create an agency
Holding: for the defendant
A minor was injured by another camper at a golf camp. The parents sued everyone involved including the PGA. The PGA filed a motion to dismiss because they had nothing to do with the camp.
The motion was granted because there was no legal relationship between the camp and the PGA. The use of the PGA logo by the camp in its brochure was not enough, if allowed by the PGA, to establish liability.
The minor, age 5, was enrolled in a YMCA golf camp. The golf camp in its brochure advertised the camp would be run or the instructors would be PGA professionals. The PGA logo was used on the brochure.
The minor was struck in the face by a golf club swung by another minor at the camp. The parents sued the defendants listed above for negligent supervision. Prior to this motion, the plaintiff settled with all the defendants except the PGA (Professional Golf Association). The PGA filed a motion for summary judgment arguing it owed no duty of care to the minor plaintiff. The motion was granted by the court, and the plaintiff’s appealed.
Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.
The issue was the involvement of the PGA in the operation and control of the camp. The PGA argued they had nothing to do with the camp, almost indicating their name and logo had been used without their permission.
The parents argued two issues. The PGA was liable under the theory of respondeat superior and camp, and the professional golfer hired by the camp had apparent authority to act for the PGA.
The phrase respondeat superior means the employer could be found liable for the acts of an employee, if at the time of the occurrence the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment. The easiest example of this is you have an employee who in their personal car goes to collect the company mail at the post office. On the way back to the office the employee has a car accident where the employee is at fault. The employer is liable for the acts of the employee because he or she was working or doing work for the employer at the time of the accident.
Under respondeat superior, an employer can be found liable for the negligence of an employee causing injuries to third parties, if, at the time of the occurrence, the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment.” To establish liability, a plaintiff must show “that a master-servant relationship existed.” “If no master-servant relationship exists, no further inquiry need take place because the master-servant relationship is sine qua non to the invocation of respondeat superior.”
If you have employees do this make sure you have non-owned auto coverage under your company business insurance or purchase a business automobile policy.
In this case, the professional golfer hired to instruct at the camp was an independent contractor of the YMCA and not employed by the PGA. The master servant relationship was created because the professional golfer was an independent contractor of the YMCA and did not work for the PGA.
The record indicates Nallen was hired by the NJ Golf Foundation as an independent contractor to run the YMCA’s Golf Camp. The NJ Golf Foundation paid Nallen $2700 for his services, which was reflected in an IRS form 1099-MISC used for reporting income paid to independent contractors. The PGA is not mentioned in the agreement signed by the YMCA and the NJPGA. Plaintiffs failed to offer any evidence that would show, or even create a
genuine dispute of fact, that Nallen was in a master-servant relationship with the PGA. We agree with the trial court that a master-servant relationship was not established merely because Nallen was a professional golfer who had competed in PGA events as a member of the PGA.
The second theory was there was an apparent agency between the PGA and the professional golfer.
If a principal cloaks an independent contractor with apparent authority or agency, the principal can be held liable as if the contractor were its own employee if it held out the contractor to the plaintiff as its own servant or agent.” Liability may be imposed on the principal based upon “apparent authority” when “the principal’s actions have misled a third-party into believing that a relationship of authority in fact exists.”
The issue is the principal, in this case the PGA must cloak the agent, the professional golfer with the authority to do something on behalf of the principal.
Liability arises if “the principal has by his voluntary act placed the agent in such a situation that a person of ordinary prudence, conversant with business uses, and the nature of the particular business, is justified in presuming that such agent has the authority to perform the particular act in question.”
Because the PGA did nothing, possibility did not even know about the camp, the PGA could and did not cloak the professional golfer with any authority to do anything.
To satisfy its burden of establishing the apparent authority or apparent agency relationship, plaintiffs had to establish: “(1) that the appearance of authority has been created by the conduct of the alleged principal and it cannot be established ‘alone and solely by proof of [conduct by] the supposed agent,’ (2) that a third party has relied on the agent’s apparent authority to act for a principal, and (3) that the reliance was reasonable under the circumstances.”
This prevents the principals of the world from being drug into every lawsuit any blowhard could create. You have no control over the people walking around saying they work for you, you may not even know they are saying it let alone even know they exist. Therefore, their actions cannot drag you into litigation that you have no knowledge of.
By contrast, there was no evidence of voluntary conduct on the part of the PGA to create an appearance that the YMCA or Nallen had authority to act for the PGA. Indeed, there was no evidence the PGA was involved in any aspect of the planning or administration of the YMCA’s camp. There was no evidence the PGA was even aware of the use of its logo or name in the YMCA’s brochure prior to this lawsuit, let alone that it authorized its use for the YMCA’s marketing purposes. Again, the appearance of authority “cannot be established ‘alone and solely by proof of [conduct by] the supposed agent[.]'”
Since there were no acts or actions on the part of the PGA they were allowed to be dismissed from the suit.
So Now What?
I suspect that the PGA is going to maintain a closer hold on the use of its name in the future. I also suspect that in a couple of states, this might have had more traction. The PGA, like many other organizations, works hard to uphold the values and qualifies its name represents. Consequently, legitimacy can be provided to a program or camp by using its name.
The same issues appear in the outdoor recreation world. I just finished an article where name NOLS was used to describe a program, that was not a NOLS program. NOLS and Outward Bound represent the top tier of outdoor training in the US short of the AMGA for more technical skills. As such always be a little suspicious when their names are bandied about. Is it truly a course being offered by them or are they using the name to provide legitimacy to what they are trying to do.
The other issue is who has authority to do what for your business or program. Keep your eyes and ears open for the use of your name by anyone.
Finally, this might have gone another way if there was not a written agreement between the professional golfer and the camp. Everyone wants to blur the lines when there is an injury. The IRS lives on blurred lines when taxes are not filed. If you hire independent contractors, you should look at hiring them with a written contract.
At the same time, hiring independent contractors to do the work of employees will also get you in hot water. If in the industry, normally employees do the work that your “independent contractors” are doing, you will be writing big checks to the IRS, Workers Compensation and to the employees themselves.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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Posted: November 29, 2017 | Author: Recreation Law | Filed under: Legal Case, Minors, Youth, Children, New Jersey, Summer Camp | Tags: Apparent Authority, appearance of authority, Brochure, campers, citation omitted, Contractor, discovery, Duty of care, genuine, golf, Golf Camp, golf club, hired, home builder, Independent Contractor, logo, Marketing, master-servant, minor child, mouth, New Jersey Professional Golf Association, non-moving, PGA NJPGA, planning, Professional Golf Association, professional golfer, renewed, Respondeat Superior, servant, Standard of review, Summary judgment, Summer Camp, supposed, YMCA, Youth Camp |
Choi and Keane v. Hunterdon County YMCA, Inc., et. al., 2017 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2737
Seung Yon Choi and Gerald J. Keane on behalf of E.K., a Minor as Guardian Ad Litem, and Seung Yon Choi, and Gerald J. Keane, individually, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Hunterdon County YMCA, Inc., Michael Trianio, Chris Nallen, Alex Baker, Erica Croat, The New Jersey Professional Golfers Association, Inc., James Mullen, Defendants, and The Professional Golfers Association, Inc., Defendant-Respondent.
DOCKET NO. A-5375-15T2
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY, APPELLATE DIVISION
2017 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2737
September 19, 2017, Submitted
November 1, 2017, Decided
NOTICE: NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION.
PLEASE CONSULT NEW JERSEY RULE 1:36-3 FOR CITATION OF UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.
PRIOR HISTORY: [*1] On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hunterdon County, Docket No. L-0159-14.
CORE TERMS: golf, independent contractor, apparent authority, logo, summary judgment, master-servant, brochure, professional golfer, citation omitted, summer camp, duty of care, standard of review, respondeat superior, appearance of authority, home builder, contractor, non-moving, marketing, supposed, planning, servant, genuine, hired, golf club, minor child, discovery, renewed, campers, mouth
COUNSEL: Carter, Van Rensselaer and Caldwell, attorneys for appellant (William J. Caldwell, on the brief).
Cascio & Capotorto, attorneys for respondent (Jeffrey A. Savage, on the brief).
JUDGES: Before Judges Yannotti and Leone.
This action arises out of injuries sustained by a five-year-old girl, E.K., while attending a golf camp. Plaintiffs, E.K.’s parents Seung Yon Choi and Gerald J. Keane, brought suit on their own behalf and on behalf of E.K. They appeal from a June 28, 2016 order granting summary judgment to defendant Professional Golfers Association of America, Inc. (PGA). We affirm.
In the summer of 2013, plaintiffs enrolled E.K. in a summer “Golf Camp” offered by defendant Hunterdon County YMCA, Inc. (YMCA). The YMCA summer camp brochure’s description of the Golf Camp stated that “PGA (Professional Golf Association) Professionals will provide a friendly and relaxing environment where your child can learn the fundamentals of” golf, and that “campers will spend half of the day with PGA professionals playing golf[.]” The PGA’s logo was displayed above the description of the Golf Camp in the [*2] brochure.
On July 27, 2013, E.K. was accidentally struck in the mouth by a golf club swung by another minor child. E.K. sustained injuries to her face and mouth including the loss of multiple baby teeth.
Plaintiffs filed suit against multiple defendants including the YMCA and several of its employees; Chris Nallen, the professional golfer hired as an instructor at the camp; the parents of the minor child that hit E.K. with the golf club; the New Jersey Professional Golfers Association, Inc. (NJPGA); the New Jersey Golf Foundation, Inc. (NJ Golf Foundation); the PGA Foundation; and the PGA. In their amended complaint, plaintiffs alleged that E.K. would not have been injured but for the negligent supervision of the Golf Camp and the campers. Plaintiff also alleged that Nallen was a member, official, agent, servant, or independent contractor of the PGA, that the PGA had a duty to ensure Nallen would properly supervise the Golf Camp, and that the PGA was an independent contractor of the YMCA.
The PGA filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion was denied on January 28, 2016, because discovery had not yet been completed and the court wanted to give plaintiffs the opportunity to develop [*3] their claim against the PGA. Plaintiffs then settled with the NJPGA, NJ Golf Foundation, Nallen, and the YMCA and its employees. After the close of discovery, the PGA filed a renewed motion for summary judgment, arguing that it owed no duty of care to plaintiffs. On June 28, 2016, Judge Michael F. O’Neill granted the PGA’s renewed motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs appeal.
Summary judgment must be granted if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact challenged and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment or order as a matter of law.” R. 4:46-2(c). The court must “consider whether the competent evidential materials presented, when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, are sufficient to permit a rational factfinder to resolve the alleged disputed issue in favor of the non-moving party.” Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540, 666 A.2d 146 (1995). “[T]he court must accept as true all the evidence which supports the position of the party defending against the motion and must accord [that party] the benefit of all legitimate inferences which can be deduced therefrom.” Id. at 535 (citation and internal [*4] quotation marks omitted).
An appellate court “review[s] the trial court’s grant of summary judgment de novo under the same standard as the trial court.” Templo Fuente De Vida Corp. v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co., 224 N.J. 189, 199, 129 A.3d 1069 (2016). We must hew to that standard of review.
Based on our standard of review, we affirm substantially for the reasons set forth in Judge O’Neill’s thoughtful and well-reasoned decision issued on June 28, 2016. We add the following.
“[A] negligence cause of action requires the establishment of four elements: (1) a duty of care, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) actual and proximate causation, and (4) damages.” Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Melcar Util. Co., 212 N.J. 576, 594, 59 A.3d 561 (2013). “The determination of the existence of a duty is a question of law for the court.” Petrillo v. Bachenberg, 139 N.J. 472, 479, 655 A.2d 1354 (1995). “Under respondeat superior, an employer can be found liable for the negligence of an employee causing injuries to third parties, if, at the time of the occurrence, the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment.” Carter v. Reynolds, 175 N.J. 402, 408-09, 815 A.2d 460 (2003). To establish liability, a plaintiff must show “that a master-servant relationship existed.” Id. at 409. “If no master-servant relationship exists, no further inquiry need take place because the master-servant relationship is sine qua non to the invocation of respondeat superior.” ]Ibid.
The record indicates Nallen was hired by [*5] the NJ Golf Foundation as an independent contractor to run the YMCA’s Golf Camp. The NJ Golf Foundation paid Nallen $2700 for his services, which was reflected in an IRS form 1099-MISC used for reporting income paid to independent contractors. The PGA is not mentioned in the agreement signed by the YMCA and the NJPGA. Plaintiffs failed to offer any evidence that would show, or even create a genuine dispute of fact, that Nallen was in a master-servant relationship with the PGA. We agree with the trial court that a master-servant relationship was not established merely because Nallen was a professional golfer who had competed in PGA events as a member of the PGA. See Basil v. Wolf, 193 N.J. 38, 62, 935 A.2d 1154 (2007) (a principal is generally immune from liability for the negligence of an independent contractor).
Plaintiffs argue that even if Nallen was an independent contractor, liability can still be imposed under the doctrine of apparent authority or agency. See Sears Mortg. Corp. v. Rose, 134 N.J. 326, 337-38, 634 A.2d 74 (1993). “If a principal cloaks an independent contractor with apparent authority or agency, the principal can be held liable as if the contractor were its own employee if it held out the contractor to the plaintiff as its own servant or agent.” Basil, supra, 193 N.J. at 63. Liability may be imposed on the [*6] principal based upon “apparent authority” when “the principal’s actions have misled a third-party into believing that a relationship of authority in fact exists.” Mercer v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 324 N.J. Super. 290, 317, 735 A.2d 576 (App. Div. 1999). Liability arises if “the principal has by his voluntary act placed the agent in such a situation that a person of ordinary prudence, conversant with business uses, and the nature of the particular business, is justified in presuming that such agent has the authority to perform the particular act in question.” Id. at 318 (citation omitted).
To satisfy its burden of establishing the apparent authority or apparent agency relationship, plaintiffs had to establish: “(1) that the appearance of authority has been created by the conduct of the alleged principal and it cannot be established ‘alone and solely by proof of [conduct by] the supposed agent,’ (2) that a third party has relied on the agent’s apparent authority to act for a principal, and (3) that the reliance was reasonable under the circumstances.” Ibid. (citations omitted).
Plaintiffs seek to impose liability on the PGA based on the use of the PGA logo and references to the PGA in the YMCA’s summer camp brochure. In Mercer, we reversed summary judgment granted to Weyerhaeuser, a [*7] large building and lumber supply company, because “[t]here was no dispute that Weyerhaeuser authorized [the home builder] to use its logo on [the home builder’s] business cards, brochures, press lists, correspondence and newspaper advertisements at the time that plaintiffs purchased their homes.” Mercer, supra, 324 N.J. Super. at 321. As such, there was a factual dispute over “whether plaintiffs relied on Weyerhauser’s conduct (lending [the home builder] its name and logo for marketing purposes) in deciding to purchase these homes[.]” Id. at 319.
By contrast, there was no evidence of voluntary conduct on the part of the PGA to create an appearance that the YMCA or Nallen had authority to act for the PGA. Indeed, there was no evidence the PGA was involved in any aspect of the planning or administration of the YMCA’s camp. There was no evidence the PGA was even aware of the use of its logo or name in the YMCA’s brochure prior to this lawsuit, let alone that it authorized its use for the YMCA’s marketing purposes. Again, the appearance of authority “cannot be established ‘alone and solely by proof of [conduct by] the supposed agent[.]'” Mercer, supra, 324 N.J. Super. at 318 (citations omitted).1
1 The PGA asserts the use of its logo was apparently authorized by the NJ Golf Foundation or the NJPGA, which contracted with the YMCA. Plaintiffs have not shown those entities were alter egos of the PGA.
Moreover, the PGA did not hold Nallen out as its agent or employee. Indeed, [*8] there was no evidence the PGA was involved in any aspect of the planning or administration of the YMCA’s camp. Thus, plaintiffs, unlike the plaintiffs in Mercer, have failed to meet their burden to show apparent authority. Therefore, we need not address whether plaintiffs relief on the alleged apparent authority, or whether that reliance was reasonable.
Posted: May 13, 2013 | Author: Recreation Law | Filed under: Legal Case, Michigan, Summer Camp, Youth Camps | Tags: Camp, Camp Sea-Gull, Capture the Flag, duty, Emily Lisner, Inc., Jonathan C. Gamze, Julie Gamze, Michigan, Michigan Court of Appeals, Negligence, Proximate Cause, Standard of review, summer camp, William P. Schulman, Youth Camp |
Gamze v Camp Sea-Gull, Inc., 2012 Mich. App. LEXIS 1227 (Mich App 2012)
JONATHAN C. GAMZE, as Next Friend for JULIE GAMZE, a Minor, Plaintiff-Appellant, v CAMP SEA-GULL, INC. and WILLIAM P. SCHULMAN, Defendants-Appellees, and EMILY LISNER, Defendant.
COURT OF APPEALS OF MICHIGAN
2012 Mich. App. LEXIS 1227
June 21, 2012, Decided
NOTICE: THIS IS AN UNPUBLISHED OPINION. IN ACCORDANCE WITH MICHIGAN COURT OF APPEALS RULES, UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS ARE NOT PRECEDENTIALLY BINDING UNDER THE RULES OF STARE DECISIS.
PRIOR HISTORY: [*1]
Charlevoix Circuit Court. LC No. 09-054822-NO.
CORE TERMS: camper, flag, flagpole, towel, capture, foreseeable, premises liability, team’s, material fact, circle, lying, pole, matter of law, genuine issues, proximate cause, proximately, counselor, favorable, causation, grabbing, owed, top, pick, order granting, negligence claim, final order, proper instructions, dangerous condition, foreseeability, depositions
JUDGES: Before: WILDER, P.J., and HOEKSTRA and BORRELLO, JJ.
In this case, plaintiff appeals from an order granting summary disposition in favor of defendants1 Camp Sea-Gull, Inc. (the Camp) and William Schulman, a part-owner and associate director of the Camp, on plaintiff’s claims of negligence and premises liability. Because genuine issues of material fact remain regarding plaintiff’s negligence claim, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.2
1 Emily Lisner was dismissed by stipulation and is not involved in this appeal. Thus, our reference to “defendants” will refer to appellees.
2 Defendants have raised a question as to this Court’s jurisdiction over the appeal. Plaintiff filed the initial appeal of the order granting summary disposition before Lisner had been dismissed from the case. Accordingly, this Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Gamze v Camp Sea-Gull, Inc, unpublished order of the Court of Appeals, entered July 13, 2010 (Docket No. 298202). We informed plaintiff, however, that he could seek to appeal the grant of summary disposition by filing a delayed application for leave under MCR 7.205(F). Defendants [*2] subsequently requested that the trial court tax their costs against plaintiff. On July 29, 2010, the trial court denied this motion except for a $20 motion fee. Plaintiff then filed the current appeal. The arguments on appeal do not concern the motion for costs but, instead, are exclusively aimed at the trial court’s decision to grant the motion for summary disposition.
When an appeal of right is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction or is not timely filed, an appellant may file an application for leave to appeal up to 12 months after entry of the final order to be appealed. MCR 7.205(F)(1) and (F)(3). Plaintiff filed this appeal on August 2, 2010, less than 12 months after May 21, 2010. Given the trial court’s notation in the orders below concerning which order was–or was not–intended as the final order in this case, we treat plaintiff’s claim of appeal as an application for leave and hereby grant it. MCR 7.205(D)(2); see also In re Morton, 258 Mich App 507, 508 n 2; 671 NW2d 570 (2003).
I. BASIC FACTS
Julie Gamze and defendant Emily Lisner were both campers at the Camp in the summer of 2007. As part of a “Pirate Day” on July 15, 2007, the Camp organized a game of capture the flag on a [*3] large field divided into two halves. In the middle of each half was a circle, and in the middle of the circle was a five-foot tall flagpole3 with a colored flag on top. While the object of the game was to “capture” the opposing team’s “flag,” the “flag” to be seized was actually a piece of cloth or towel lying on the ground at the base of the flagpole. Participants were not supposed to attempt to capture the flag on top of the pole or the pole itself. Lisner testified that no one told her that the flagpole flag was not the correct flag to capture, and the counselor who explained the rules does not remember if she clarified that point. In the course of the game, Lisner grabbed the flagpole and began running with it. Gamze was running nearby, being chased by another camper, and the metal stake at the bottom end of the flagpole hit her in the mouth. She lost one tooth, and three others were broken.
3 The flagpole also had a metal tapered end or “stake” so it could be inserted and anchored into the ground.
Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging negligence and premises liability. The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary disposition and stated the following at the hearing:
I [*4] can’t see where the camp and Mr. Schulman did anything wrong. I can’t see where this individual’s grabbing of the marker was a foreseeable event by the camp and those in charge of this particular camp and the camp’s owner.
Anything that they did or failed to do was not the proximate cause of this Plaintiff’s injury. And, I don’t believe there is any material facts that are in dispute that would prevent the granting for the Motion for Summary Disposition under [MCR 2.116(C)(10)]. So that’s my ruling.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
This Court reviews de novo a trial court’s decision on a motion for summary disposition. Auto Club Group Ins Co v Burchell, 249 Mich App 468, 479; 642 NW2d 406 (2001). When reviewing a motion brought under MCR 2.116(C)(10), we consider the pleadings, admissions, and other evidence submitted by the parties in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Brown v Brown, 478 Mich 545, 551-552; 739 NW2d 313 (2007). A grant of summary disposition “is appropriate if there is no genuine issue regarding any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Id. at 552.
The elements of a negligence claim are “(1) a duty [*5] owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages.” Case v Consumers Power Co, 463 Mich 1, 6; 615 NW2d 17 (2000). It is not entirely clear which element(s) the trial court found to be deficient in plaintiff’s claim. While only explicitly referencing causation, the trial court’s statement seemed to encompass three of the elements: duty (“I can’t see where this individual’s grabbing of the marker was a foreseeable event . . . .”; breach (“I can’t see where the [defendants] did anything wrong.”; and causation (“[a]nything that they did or failed to do was not the proximate cause of this Plaintiff’s injury.”). With the damages element not being disputed, we will address the remaining three elements.
The question of whether a defendant owes a plaintiff a duty of care is a question of law. Cummins v Robinson Twp, 283 Mich App 677, 692; 770 NW2d 421 (2009). When determining whether a duty should be imposed, the ultimate inquiry is “whether the social benefits of imposing a duty outweigh the social costs of imposing a duty.” In re Certified Question from Fourteenth Dist Court of Appeals of Texas, 479 Mich 498, 505; 740 NW2d 206 (2007). “This inquiry [*6] involves considering, among any other relevant considerations, the relationship of the parties, the foreseeability of the harm, the burden on the defendant, and the nature of the risk presented.” Id. (quotation marks omitted). But the most important factor is the relationship of the parties. Id.
Here, we conclude that defendants owed Gamze a duty to provide proper instructions for the game of “capture the flag.” In 2007, Gamze was a summer camper at the Camp. She and her family entrusted defendants with her safety during her stay. It was foreseeable that if the campers were not properly instructed, then a camper could pick up the actual flagpole instead of picking up the flag/towel lying on the ground next to the flagpole. It is also foreseeable that, if a camper did remove the flagpole from the ground, the camper could injure another camper while running with the pole.4 Finally, the burden to properly instruct the campers to pick up the towel from the ground is negligible.
4 This is especially foreseeable when the opposing team’s goal is to pursue and tag the flag carrier.
Once the existence of a duty toward Gamze is established, the reasonableness of the defendant’s conduct is a question [*7] of fact for the jury. Arias v Talon Development Group, Inc, 239 Mich App 265, 268; 608 NW2d 484 (2000). Thus, the next question is whether there is a genuine issue regarding whether defendants breached this duty by failing to provide the proper instructions.
In support of their motion for summary disposition, defendants provided, inter alia, the unsworn “statements” from two people who were camp counselors at the time of the accident. However, these statements do not comply with the requirements of MCR 2.116(G)(2) since they are not “affidavits, depositions, admissions, or other documentary evidence,” and consequently cannot be considered. Marlo Beauty Supply, Inc v Farmers Ins Group of Cos, 227 Mich App 309, 321; 575 NW2d 324 (2009). Moreover, even if the statements were considered, they would not support granting defendants’ motion for summary disposition. The first statement was by Leah Glowacki, who was the programming counselor at the time of the incident. With regard to the instructions, she stated, “I instructed the campers to attempt to obtain the flag that was inside the circle on the opposite side of the field from where their team was stationed.” This statement does not establish [*8] that the correct instructions were given. In fact, when viewing the statement in a light most favorable to plaintiff, one could conclude that Glowacki’s instructions might possibly have been construed by at least some campers as a directive to remove the flag itself instead of the towel on the ground. The other statement was provided by Stephanie Plaine, who stated that she instructed the campers “to capture the team’s flag on the other side of the field which was located inside the circles drawn onto the grass.” Again, this statement does not specify that the instruction was to get the towel lying next to the flag.
Defendants did properly submit the depositions of six people, however. But none of the submitted testimony indicated that the campers were instructed to ignore the flagpole and only pick up the towel on the ground: Gamze could not recall what specific instructions were given; Lisner testified that she did not hear any specific instructions to take the towel on the ground instead of the pole itself; Jack Schulman and William Schulman both admitted that they did not hear the instructions that Glowacki and Plaine provided; Marsha Schulman admitted that she was not present when [*9] the instructions were given; and Plaine, herself, testified that she could not recall the specifics of the instructions that she gave. Therefore, when viewing all of this evidence in a light most favorable to plaintiff, there is a question of material fact on whether the Camp instructed the campers to only take the towel lying at the base of the flagpole instead of the flag or flagpole itself.
Finally, the trial court indicated that it found as a matter of law that defendants could not have proximately caused plaintiff’s injuries. But proximate cause is a factual question for the jury unless reasonable minds could not differ. Lockridge v Oakwood Hosp, 285 Mich App 678, 684; 777 NW2d 511 (2009). Proximate cause normally involves examining the foreseeability of consequences and whether a defendant should be held liable for those consequences. Campbell v Kovich, 273 Mich App 227, 232; 731 NW2d 112 (2006). Here, a reasonable juror could have concluded that a failure to instruct the campers properly could foreseeably result in an enthusiastic camper grabbing and removing the flagpole in order to “capture the flag” affixed to the top of it. And because the object of the game was for the camper [*10] to run the flag back to her team’s territory while other campers tried to tag her, a reasonable person could conclude that it was foreseeable that other campers might be hit and injured by the five-foot tall flagpole as it was being moved. Therefore, the trial court erred by holding as a matter of law that defendants could not have proximately caused Gamze’s injuries.
B. PREMISES LIABILITY
We now turn to plaintiff’s premises liability claim. Because Gamze was an invitee on the Camp’s premises, defendants owed a duty to “‘exercise reasonable care to protect [her] from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition on the land.'” Benton v Dart Properties, Inc, 270 Mich App 437, 440; 715 NW2d 335 (2006), quoting Lugo v Ameritech Corp, Inc, 464 Mich 512, 516; 629 NW2d 384 (2001) (emphasis added). Plaintiff must show that the duty was breached and that the breach proximately caused her injuries. Benton, 270 Mich App at 440.
However, Gamze was not harmed by a dangerous condition “on the land.” Instead, she was harmed when Lisner pulled the flagpole out of the ground and began running with it. The danger arose solely because of the actions of the participants and not because of [*11] an inherent condition of the premises. Thus, plaintiff’s claim properly sounds in negligence, not premises liability.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We do not retain jurisdiction. No costs are taxable pursuant to MCR 7.219, neither party having prevailed in full.
/s/ Kurtis T. Wilder
/s/ Joel P. Hoekstra
/s/ Stephen L. Borrello