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Can a Summer Camp be Held Liable or Responsible When a Child Fractures / Breaks a Bone at a School, Day Care Center, or Summer Camp?

By David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network

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Summer camp is usually a wonderful time and adventure for children. At times, however, a summer camp can be the site and later memory of a serious personal injury sustained by a child. As a Child Injury Lawyer, I am often asked if a summer camp, school, or day care center is liable or responsible for the bills and damages when a child fractures or breaks a bone. Like many broad questions, the answer is “it depends”. A summer camp may be liable or responsible for compensation to the injured child if the parent, by and through the attorney, can prove the following elements:

1. Duty. This typically the easiest element to prove. A summer camp, who accepts a child as a camper, has a duty to provide a reasonably safe environment and consistent supervision for children. The term – reasonable – is subject to debate as to the exact duties and level of care that should be provided to the children enrolled in the summer camp program.

2. Breach of Duty. In further analyzing the claim or the case, the question arises as follows: What did the summer camp do wrong? How, if at all, was the summer camp negligent? A parent or guardian must show that the summer camp, through the negligence of its staff, caused or significantly contributed to causing the injuries.

3. Causation. This is sometimes the most tricky of the four elements. The question arises as follows: Did the negligence or breach of duty actually cause the injuries to take place? There must be a link or nexus between the negligence and the injuries or damages.

4. Damages. In essence, this refers to how the child was injured or harmed as a result of the negligence or fault of the summer camp program. It also refers to the economic damages which include but are not limited to the past medical bills and the future medical bills.

When a fracture or broken bone takes place at a summer camp or during summer camp related activities, a summer camp may be liable for the damages associated with the fracture or broken bone. Each case must be evaluated on its own merits to determine the respective liability and damages associated with the particular case. Here are two examples. Let’s say that a child is playing basketball. He goes up for a layout but awkwardly and lands on his arm. He suffers a broken arm. While the fracture did take place at the summer camp, there probably is not a case to pursue for these injuries. Another example would be a horseback riding incident. Let’s say the camp lets 5 year olds ride horses. A 5 year old, with little to no experience riding, is placed on a horse. The summer camp aide is distracted and walks away to answer a phone call. The child then falls off the horse and fractures his arm. This is a much different situation than the basketball injury and would probably constitute a viable case to pursue. The analysis of the horseback riding case would be as follows:

1. Duty. The summer camp attendant had a duty to supervise the child during horseback activities. Furthermore, the attendant had a duty to stand next to the horse and provide support and balance while the child was on the horse.

2. Breach of Duty. The attendant breached the duty when she walked away to take the phone call.

3. Causation. The lack of supervision and support was the cause of the incident. Had the attendant been in the right place, the child would have been prevented from falling.

4. Damages. The child suffered real damages in the form of a fractured arm. The damages would include the child’s pain and suffering as well as the medical bills.

Since each case needs to be analyzed from both a factual and a legal basis, a parent or guardian should retain the services of a Child Injury Lawyer for advice, consultation, and legal representation. The book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know – has chapters on Medical Treatment – Medical Bills, Playground Injuries, Sports Related Injuries, Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.