Summer camp is just around the corner for millions of children across the State of Florida and around the country. Our Miami injury lawyers are frequently asked if there is insurance coverage for injuries when kids are hurt traveling to and from summer camp and on camping field trips.
The acid test for every Miami children’s injury lawyer who sues summer camps–or cruise lines, and other businesses–is did the injury occur “in the course and scope” of the counselor’s duties? For nearly 25 years I have battled insurance companies on this issue and have learned that commercial insurance policies are designed to protect the insurance company’s profits–not the camps, not the counselors, and certainly not the injured campers.
Camp Volunteer Causes Head-On Traffic Accident
Recently a “Registered Volunteer” camp counselor for Troop 370 of the Boy Scouts of America, Alan Norton, was involved in a terrifying head-on collision. Mr. Norton was driving back from a Florida cemetery where he had been supervising a Boy Scout who had, over the course of eight visits, assisted in cleaning up a Florida cemetery, in hopes of earning an Eagle Scout Merit Badge.
On the last and fateful visit, Mr. Norton had forgotten to photograph the cemetery to verify the Scout’s work, so he drove home to retrieve his camera with the intention of returning to the cemetery to take pictures. Photographing the work was mandated to verify that the Scout had in fact met his requirements.
On the return drive, Mr. Norton hit Chris Hubner head-on, seriously injuring Mr. Hubner and himself. Mr. Hubner sued the Boy Scouts of America for his injuries resulting from the car accident.
INSURANCE COMPANY CLAIMS NO COVERAGE
Even though Mr. Norton had made no other stops on his way back to the cemetery, the Boy Scouts of America’s insurance company, OldRepublic,claimed that Mr. Norton, while a Registered Volunteer, was not covered under its policy because Mr. Norton was not engaged in an “Official Scouting Activity” at the time.
According to the language in the policy, “Official Scouting Activities” are loosely defined as any activities that are consistent with the Charter and Bylaws and Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America.
The insurance company argued that since the accident occurred after the cemetery clean-up project had officially ended, Mr.Norton was acting outside the scope of an Official Scouting Activity when he attempted to drive back to the cemetery to photograph the Scout’s clean-up efforts.
JUDGE DISMISSES CASE OF INJURED VICTIM
The Honorable Patricia V. Thomas, the Citrus County Florida trial judge, agreed with the insurance company, ruling that it had no obligation to make any payment to Mr. Hubner for the accident caused by the Boy Scout’s Volunteer. Mr. Hubner then appealed her decision to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeal–which thankfully reversed her.
In its opinion the Fifth found that Judge Thomas had focused on the wrong “activity” when dismissing the case–since the activity that Mr. Norton was actually participating in at the time of the accident encompassed far more than simply cleaning up the cemetery. Rather the activity extended to providing broader assistance and encouragement to the Scout who was attempting to complete his Eagle Scout Merit Badge requirement.
Similar to the crux of a case I recently wrote about in a blog post on a personal injury case against Publix where Publix was deemed legally responsible for its employee who beat up a customer, the key issue in the Boy Scout case is whether or not the counselor was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the accident.
Insurance companies, corporations, and cruise lines constantly attempt to use the argument that their employees’ or crew members’ actions fall outside the course and scope of employment to evade legal accountability and insurance coverage. I am pleased to see that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision was consistent with the ruling in the Publix accident case, thereby broadening and loosening the definition of “course and scope” to provide greater protection for the injured.
ACCIDENT CASE EVALUATION
I have dedicated my life to protecting people who have been hurt by greedy and careless corporations, insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and cruise lines when they refuse to put the well-being of their clients ahead of their profits.
If you have been hurt on a Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Norwegian cruise ship or injured in a slip and fall at a Florida Target, Publix, Winn Dixie, Walgreens, CVS, or other commercial property, please call me at 1-866-597-4529 or email me today for a free initial consultation.