As the summer is winding down, I was thankful that my three kids will be returning home from sleep away camp this weekend. Seven weeks of organized fun, controlled environment with loving and caring counselors and directors to make sure that my kids and others are safe. As a personal injury lawyer, I am always concerned about the safety of individuals and was thinking of some of the recent camp cases my firm has handled.
When you sign up to send your child to camp, you are entrusting them with the duty to provide your child with a safe and reasonable environment. Camp activities include, sports, waterfront activities, art, music, as well as many intercamp Olympics and color war. Some of the greatest memories kids have are those made during these summers.
Yet, many camps fail to provide the most basic when it comes to reasonable care for the safety of its children. Recently, I represented a young boy who was at a camp. They had a banana boat ride. Many of you may know that this is the ride where 4-5 kids sit on a banana shaped tube and a motor boat pulls the kids. The goal was usually a fun ride along the lake. Of course, the counselors and probably the kids, in an effort to make it more “exciting”, have the motor boat drive in a way to cause the banana boat to twist and turn in the wake and knock the kids into the lake. Seems harmless. Well it would be if you provided the kids with safety rules and guidelines. What if the child sitting in the front of the boat, closest to the rope, is not given any hand signals in which to convey that they are not feeling safe or feel like they may fall forward into the rope towards the engine of the boat pulling the banana float. The sound of the engine and the noise from the movement is such that you cant verbally communicate. Such was the case and my client suffered a severe laceration (over 100 sutures) from his shoulder around his arm onto his forearm. This left a lasting scar and permanent residual problems. Leav & Steinberg, LLP was able to prove that the activity was being performed in a dangerous way with inadequate supervision and training of the counselors and a lack of communication with the campers. Though the camp felt this was not a case, we were successful in proving otherwise and resulted in a significant award for the child and a recovery of his medical bills.
More recently, my firm has been working on a matter of a young boy who at the age of 14 asked to help out in the kitchen as part of his camper/CIT/Cafeteria help duties. THE CAMP SAID SURE. They provided no training and no clothing requirements. Moreover, they asked the kid, who of course said yes, to fry eggs, cook chicken, boil corn, move corn off the stove. I am sure the end of the story is obvious. He is moving corn off the stove, alone with no assistance when he spills the boiling water on his foot and through his sneaker. To add insult to injury, the burn which was obvious, was determined to be nothing more than a minor (sun burn level) burn. This determination was made by the physician assistant or nurse on staff. With no attempt at ascertaining the full extent of injury the wound became worse, infected and only after 6 days was a fellow campers dad on site who happened to be a doctor and saw this young man. He called they boy’s father who advised he be taken to an ER immediately. He was driven home and admitted to a local NYC burn center for almost a week where he underwent debridements and surgery.
The camp’s failure is obvious. They should not allow a 14 year old to work and control hot food. They should have appropriate rules regarding clothing and lastly when a burn does occur you have to provide reasonable medical care or take the child to a local ER so as to avoid infection and further damage to the leg.
I hope that everyone’s child makes it through camp and builds lasting memories. Memories that are positive, and ones that are memorable. Hopefully with continued education and sadly with necessary litigation, camp injuries will become a thing of the past.