Strange, camp director/AMGA certified rock guide charged with endangering children, on climbing trip

Obviously, there are some facts missing, this is really dumb, there is an overzealous prosecutor; someone in the family knows someone in county office or the plaintiff’s attorney pushed to have the county sheriff make their case for them.

It’s really sad to see an 11-year-old girl injured. It’s said to have a group of kids scared by the experience. However, there are some things about this that are confusing.

Here are the facts from the article. The defendant & defendant, first in a criminal case and second in a civil case was the camp director of a church summer camp; Camp Otterbein (an affiliate of West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church). The defendant took the kids to Hocking Hills Rock Climbing Rappelling to do something.

During the day either a female camper was lowered or rappelled into a hole. (I’m guessing it was a formation, why would you lower someone into a hole?) The rock formations are small and composed of long ago eroded water features. (I grew up in the area and have been there several times.) The article describes her as rappelling, however, when questioned the article states she said she was lowered in when she became stuck.

It is not clear what time she started her descent; however, she was not rescued until 1:30 AM. The girl suffers from compartment syndrome, which allegedly started to occur after she was discharged from the hospital.

The defendant allegedly created a substantial risk to the health or safety of a child, by violating a duty of care, protection, or support, which is the definition of child endangerment. (It’s a 10 page statute, so I’ll not post it. It is a good statute; however, it is also the statute used to hold adults criminally liable when a kid gets in trouble because the adult allowed or left the child in a position to get in trouble.)

The child suffered:

…she suffered injuries including redness and bruising around her thighs due to the harness; bruising and abrasions on the right side of her stomach; abrasions on her back from her neck to her buttocks; abrasions on her right shoulder; bruising in her armpits; and lacerations between her legs where the harness was holding her.

I highlighted the injuries that would come whether you were trapped or not wearing a harness. The severity of those types of injuries might be increased based upon the length of time in the harness. However, if she was wedged, then she might not have had any weight on the harness. Also the injuries under her armpits suggest she was wearing a full body harness, but that is only speculation.

There were two things that did get my attention in the article. The girl admitted to investigators that she had volunteered to go down the hole, and no one had forced her to do so.

The second was that the mother told park rangers that she was going to find an attorney. (My kids stuck in a hole, but I’m going to find an attorney…..)

The defendant camp director was a certified “instructor” through the AMGA.

I’m trying to get more information about this accident/incident. Not much will be forth coming until after a plea bargain or criminal trial and then only what is in the criminal files. The civil case will take longer.

What a mess.

The article is: Camp director charged with endangering children

Please read the article, you might see things differently. Thanks to D. Twilley for sending me the link.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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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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By Recreation Law              James H. Moss               #Authorrank

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