How Camp and School Liability Differ Under New York Law
As all of us prepare to send our kids to camp, yes, that includes me, it bears mention that the laws in New York that are designed to help protect our children while in a school setting are not as robust with respect to protecting children while they are at camp.
The distinction is really rather elementary:
Summer camps, unlike schools, are not bound by various student-protective statutes, such as the anti-bullying law known as the Dignity for All Students Act.
Thus, at first blush, it seems like a school’s responsibility for student safety would be far greater than at camp.
But is that really true?
Under New York law, camps, like schools, stand in the role of a parent during the time that the campers are in their charge.
This means that while camps won’t inherently be held responsible for every accident that occurs to one of its campers, they will be held responsible if the injury results from their lack of supervision.
One of New York’s appellate courts summarized this rule as follows:
“Schools or camps are not insurers of the safety of their students or campers, as they ‘cannot reasonably be expected to continuously supervise and control all of their movements and activities’ … Rather, schools and camps owe a duty to supervise their charges and will only be held liable for foreseeable injuries proximately caused by the absence of adequate supervision.” (see Mirand v. City of New York, 84 N.Y.2d at 49, 614 N.Y.S.2d 372, 637 N.E.2d 263; Doe v. Department of Educ. of City of New York, 54 A.D.3d 352, 353, 862 N.Y.S.2d 598; Paca v. City of New York, 51 A.D.3d 991, 992, 858 N.Y.S.2d 772).
As a practical matter, campers are typically engaged in far more outdoor, vigorous activities, than they are as students during the school year. In addition, camps, especially sleep away camps, have campers in their charge for far longer periods of time – and in far more locations than typically occur during the school year.
Consequently, from a practical perspective, it would seem that camps actually face far greater potential liability than schools, even though their statutory responsibilities are far less, if not non-existent.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful, enjoyable and safe summer.