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SCOOP: BANNING CAMPER/COUNSELOR “RELATIONSHIPS” – BEYOND ROMANCE
Alan Cooper, Esquire
October 3, 2012
As a life-long camper (two years in day camp, eleven years at sleep away camp, four years as a counselor) I remember one of the sweetest times as a camper was when our counselors would participate with us in recreational activities. Camper/counselor basketball and soccer games, chicken fights, tossing us about the pool – it was like having your big brother allowing you to hang out with him and his friends.
Unfortunately, like many other popular activities of yesteryear such as trampolines, diving boards, canoe jousts and rat tail fights that are no longer allowed due to liability exposure, the time has come for camps to eliminate those activities that involve direct play between staff members and campers.
The reason is simple. Two twelve year-old campers collide on the soccer field. One is injured. Because collisions with other players of one’s own age are an inherent and acceptable risk of the sport, there is no liability. The same is not true of a collision between a twelve year-old and a twenty year old, which is not an inherent risk as parents can rightly claim that by allowing their child to attend camp that they did not accept the risk of colliding with someone twice their son or daughter’s size. A softball thrown from one eleven year-old girl to another that breaks someone’s nose is an inherent risk. One thrown by a twenty-one year old is not. In short, nearly every time a camper is injured while “playing” a game or sport with a counselor, the camp will be found liable for the injury and ensuing damages.
I realize that by doing so you are taking away yet another sliver of what makes camp so special. But like so many other things in our litigious society, the potential costs outweigh the benefits.