When a Tree Falls At a Summer Camp, Who is Responsible?

A tragic accident happened on July 3 — a camp counselor was killed when a tree fell on her.  Annais Rittenberg was an art instructor at Camp Tawonga, a sleepaway camp located in Tuolumne County, outside of Groveland and near Highway 120 and Yosemite National Park. She was outside the dining hall on Wednesday morning when the tree fell on her.  Four other camp staffers were also injured and taken to local hospitals.

Who is liable when an accident happens at a summer camp?

Both public and private property owners are required to maintain their property to be safe for those who are using it. A camp owner is responsible for the condition of the camp, including protecting against known dangers. When an accident happens to a camper or counselor, the camp owner can be held responsible if the accident was caused by its negligence.  Negligence is established by showing the following:

  • The camp property owner had a duty to the injured party
  • The camp property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition on their property
  • The camp owner failed to take reasonable precautions to avoid foreseeable accidents from occurring on their property

While California Government Code Section 8670.56.5 protects both public and private park owners from liability for injuries that arise as a result of unanticipated large grave natural disasters or other acts of God such as hurricanes and wild fires, they can still be held responsible for dangerous conditions they should have reasonably anticipated and prevented.  In a camp setting, there are many different types of accidents that can occur because of the camp’s owners and director’s negligence, including:

  • Accidents occurring from dangerous conditions in the camp grounds such as decaying trees, poisonous bushes and damaged buildings.
  • Accidents involving failure to supervise campers in recreational activities such as boating, sports and hiking
  • Accidents involving assaults by counselors or other campers

The California personal injury attorneys at the San Jose Law Office of Robert B. Kopelson has more than 35 years of experience in representing people who have been injured due to dangerous conditions in both public and private premises throughout California, including the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose and  Santa Clara County.

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