Paul H. Brown (phbrown@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Thu, 29 Jun 1995 10:39:01 -0400
Ian wrote about possible civil and criminal liability for a scouter if a
scout doesn't take his medicine and subsequently hurts himself. He raises
a difficult question. Just what is our "duty" to our scouts? Are we
guarantors of safety? I don't think so.
With the skipping medicine before an injury example, some legal analysts
(this one among them, naturally) would tell you that you must have four
elements before the jury will award big bucks:
1. a duty owed to the person injured;
2. a breach of that duty;
3. the breach being the "proximate cause" of
4. some damage.
(we will omit, for the sake of simple analysis, the presence or absence of
a liability insuror who furnishes the "big bucks" in exchange for a big
Does a scouter have a "duty" to see that all medicines are taken as
prescribed? If he doesn't know that Johny need medicine? Does he have such a
duty if a parent told him that Johny needs his medicine? If the parent
gave the scouter the medicine? If the scouter said, "No problem. I'll
make sure he takes his medicine." I think we have a continuum of
responsibility: lots in the final instance, less so in the first.
The jury first has to find that A Scouter has a duty to have Johny take
Somehow or other, Johnny doesn't take the medicine. Everyone involved
forgets. The duty is breached.
Johny injures himself. Damage
Was the lack of medication the proximate cause of the injury? Probably
not. The proximate cause was playing with the sharp knife, falling off
the rock, missing the next limb of the tree, whatever. The lack of
medication didn't _cause_ the injury, IMO. However, a jury could see the
situation differently. They may not see it as "Johny hurt himself
(Johny's parents foot the medical bills)," but as "A Scouter hurt Johny
(pay the big bucks)."
A Scouter may have become, without realizing it, a _guarantor_ of Johny's
safety and happiness on the scout outing. Does this mean that we accept
responsibility for whatever happens to someone with diabetes, AD/HD,
hymenoptera venom allergies, etc. when they are with us,?
Now do we want to move on to the next question: Johny wakes up crying at
2 AM, and has a fever of 104 (dunno what that is in furrin' degrees).
You're several miles from a trailhead. You have some acetominophen in
your first aid kit (won't complicate things by suggesting all you have is
aspirin). Do you give him some to reduce the fever? Do you have his
parents' permission to give him medicines?
All opinions not "borrowed" from unattributed sources are my own.
Paul H. Brown, ASM T807, Great George Washington District, NCAC
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City