U.S. & World

Court: Mormon church, members not liable in injury


Return To Article
  • abtrumpet Provo, UT
    Dec. 6, 2013 9:55 p.m.

    Well, it's a good decision by the court. I would agree with "A Scientist," even though I usually never do. I'd say that only Christ has the power to save. However, he gives us his Gospel and administers it through his church.

  • Linus Bountiful, UT
    Dec. 4, 2013 10:44 p.m.

    The Mormon Church is self-insured and covers all participants in church activities with "Activity Insurance." This covers the cost of medical care for participants who are injured while participating in the activity. The Church wouldn't have left this family to bear all the costs for the girl's care. Knowing this, I must assume that the girl's parents wanted some punitive damages to be awarded. We live in, and the Church functions in, a litigious society. That this family filed suit should not surprise anyone. I am glad that Idaho law does not discourage church youth outings by imposing unreasonable liability upon adult leaders and the Church.

  • RFLASH Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 4, 2013 8:29 a.m.

    I hate to say this, but those are the kind of people you run from. The ones that are always looking for a way to sue. I have a cousin that has sued about everyone. The kind that will see a mop at the store and just happen to slip and fall. If everyone thought that way, can you imagine!

  • gittalopctbi Glendale, AZ
    Dec. 4, 2013 7:49 a.m.

    To dove-tail onto cjb's comment:

    "Fortunately, medical care was close by. One church member was a doctor, and an emergency room team from a Boise-based hospital just happened to be floating past".

    Seems like the Lord was looking after the girl. So then the parents decide to sue His church. Ironic. Pathetic.

  • Kaladin Greeley, CO
    Dec. 3, 2013 4:08 p.m.

    The ruling doesn't mean that the adults should not watch over and protect the younger folks on trips like this. What it is saying is that there existed in this particular case no special relationship that rose to the level necessary to allow a suit for negligence. Each such case is decided based on case law and the facts of the particular case. If this had been a scouting excursion the outcome would likely have come out different. It may have even come out differently had it been a youth excursion. Personally, I can't imagine suing somebody for a decision my child made, even if there was peer pressure to do what she did. I would save any potential law suit for something somebody did to my child.

  • raybies Layton, UT
    Dec. 3, 2013 2:57 p.m.

    I could see a kid being pressured by peers into doing something dangerous on an activity. I think adults need to be especially supportive of the kids that opt out of recklessness, instead of joining the jeers. I remember going to Lake Powell as a scout, and there was something of a competition among the boys to see who could jump off the highest point of the cliffs... I was never comfortable participating in that. I didn't get a lot of glory or attention as a result.

    In this case it's interesting that the parents didn't complain about the church member who had medical expertise enough to help save their daughter's life, but still went ahead and sued the church and its membership. That seems like missing a possible miracle.

    Hopefully everyone is okay now.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Dec. 3, 2013 1:27 p.m.

    "Fortunately, medical care was close by. One church member was a doctor, and an emergency room team from a Boise-based hospital just happened to be floating past".


    What are the odds?

    Dec. 3, 2013 1:06 p.m.

    I agree with both of A Scientist's points. We as individals have the responsibility to seek salvation and exhaltation through the only Source of those things - Jesus Christ. There is no other way to receive either of them.

  • rnoble Pendleton, OR
    Dec. 3, 2013 1:05 p.m.

    In support of the decision and many if not most of the expectations voiced in comments, I remind of what Joseph Smith said about running the lives of members of the church. He said that correct principles were taught and people were expected to govern themselves.

  • Truthseeker2 SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA
    Dec. 3, 2013 1:00 p.m.

    "Sorry about Truthseekers son, but accidents do happen and criticizing a non-medical persons ability to diagnose and treat an injury"

    "can see that it is not the responsibility of someone else to watch every little move teenage kids make just because they happen to be on a church activity with them."

    Yes accidents do happen. What is the appropriate response when there are accidents?

    My main issues with this particular event were:
    #1 A chaperone/leader found it humorous--didn't recognize the danger or seriousness of--two 12 yr. olds being alone at the top of an unfamiliar mountain in poor visibility.

    #2 He wasn't treated.
    My son complained to another adult (an RN) immediately when he was injured, was given a ride back to the cabin and left alone. He called us at 9 pm--many hours after the accident complaining/tearful that his arm hurt and no one had provided ANY treatment. . (There were medical facilities nearby). The accident happened the day before they returned home.

    #3 Lest you assume my son was a rowdy, out-of-control type, he is/was not.

  • Conservative Cedar City, UT
    Dec. 3, 2013 11:29 a.m.

    In most cases related to injury lawsuits, lawyers are right in the middle of it. They advertise that they will get "what you deserve" and they especially go after large corporations (which the Church is classified as).

    Lawyers are careful to make you think that no one will be financially harmed by going after the big bad organization. Then they build a case that costs an enormous amount of money to litigate (both Defense and Prosecution). In the end the lawyers (both sides) emerge wealthier.

    Such is the litigation-happy American economy.

  • Duckhunter Highland, UT
    Dec. 3, 2013 11:25 a.m.


    "It appears you've got a nice fan base."

    Well at least you're a good sport :) but no I don't think it is "my" fanbase. I just think there are still people with common sense out there that can see that it is not the responsibility of someone else to watch every little move teenage kids make just because they happen to be on a church activity with them. To even suggest they should is ridiculous.

    This lawsuit was a joke, and I haven't seen you suggest otherwise so I'm not knocking you there.

    When I was about 12 growing up in California my dad worked nights and could not take me on a church sponsored father and sons campout. I wanted to go and another father in the ward was good enough to take me. I was goofing off that night running through the camp I ran into a large brick fireplace and broke my nose. It was not pretty, I was bloody, but they didn't take me home until the next day. My mom took me to the doctor and they reset my nose. End of issue. No lawsuit, no blame game.

  • Owl Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 3, 2013 10:09 a.m.

    One on one supervision is seldom done on any outing, church or otherwise, unless there is a special needs person. Church leaders do feel a very strong sense of duty to protect children on outings, to imply otherwise is to impugn their integrity.

    Sorry about Truthseekers son, but accidents do happen and criticizing a non-medical persons ability to diagnose and treat an injury in the field is Monday morning quarterbacking. If you feel your son was neglected, talk to the leader involved, not the DN.

  • Liberal Ted Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 3, 2013 8:50 a.m.

    If you feel that your child is not able to make good decisions on their own, then they shouldn't be allowed to go out into the world. No matter what.

    The child isn't the one suing the church. The parents of the child that weren't there are. If they really were that concern, then they should have asked to go along, so they can watch their child and make sure she didn't jump off a bridge, stand on rail road tracks, wore her seat belt, ate her vegetables, went to bed on time etc.

    First, people complain there is too much church, and then they complain that the church isn't making every decision for them. What do you want? If the church is liable for peoples behavior, then the church is going to need the law of the land to grant them permission to control peoples lives. After all is the church liable or a home teacher liable if an elderly person falls and breaks their hip and dies in their home? Isn't a home teachers duty to watch over that person?

    Cmon people....

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Dec. 3, 2013 8:48 a.m.

    I looked up the court record on this case. It was a ward outing, not a youth outing. The girl's family elected not to partipate, so the girl rode up with another family. The other family stated they thought they were just providing her transportation. Ostensibly the girl's grandfather was going to be there but the record isn't clear about whether he was there or not. The landing area of the jump off the bridge was examined for rocks prior to anyone jumping. People were jumping off the bridge on 2 consecutive days. The girl jumped on the 2nd day. The girl received immediate medical treatment from medical professionals.

    I failed to mention the "humorous story" about our son was told over the pulpit in a sacrament meeting talk by one of the stk leaders who was also a chaperone on the trip.

    Fyi we've always mowed our own lawn.
    It appears you've got a nice fan base.

  • Rational Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 2, 2013 11:36 p.m.

    Best wishes for the girl.

  • GiuseppeG Murray, Utah
    Dec. 2, 2013 11:09 p.m.

    So the Idaho courts have decided that a church outing/activity has no more merit or responsibility to the youth and their family than the kid heading over to a sleep over. Why then should a parent? Hoping this helps parents get over the idea that just the thought of it being a "Church sponsored" activity makes it any safer than any other activity....parents need to make sure that whatever safety standards they think are important are in place before releasing their kids for these activities.

  • K Mchenry, IL
    Dec. 2, 2013 10:35 p.m.

    If your child got hurt on a school field trip your health insurance would require a law suit to the school and perhaps the venue. For the school to cover the damages. And most schools carry insurance on students should a mishap happen. They do. In sports, on the playground. I don't see how a church activity is any different. And the family cooperation would be expected by the insurance company. There is pressure to do the activities. If you don't you are a bad parent because they can't feel the spirit if they don't hike in the woods at girls camp. The child got hurt. Didn't mean they did anything wrong. Didn't mean the adults did anything wrong. People get hurt. But it happened while she was in their care. I don't think the individual chaperons are responsible for the bills caused he church decided that they would be the leaders for the activity. What kind of church doesn't see to the care of a child hurt on their watch when an injury occurs? Seems contrary to the message.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Dec. 2, 2013 7:39 p.m.


    Thank you for the kind response.

    You are wrong, of course, in your judgement.
    We were new to that particular ward and the outing was all planned and arranged by the time we arrived on the scene.
    Throughout the lives of our 3 children we were the parents who often served as chaperones, for church and school outings, and had leadership callings in both the Scouts and YM/YW programs as well.

    (Btw the idea of suing the church for our son's injury never even crossed our mind. We paid the medical bills for his treatment.)

  • rlsintx Plano, TX
    Dec. 2, 2013 3:53 p.m.

    Never jump into un-checked waters. Ever. I have 2 friends whose lives are forever changed because of it. One, a broken neck leaving him paralyzed from the neck down and another with so many plates and screws in their leg it's impossible to do more than stand and walk slowly.

  • Duckhunter Highland, UT
    Dec. 2, 2013 2:53 p.m.


    Well I have no doubt that whatever church leaders you happen to align with are only to happy to leave your kids home with you, I know I would be. We've never had an outing in our ward where the leaders weren't requesting that parents of the youth come along and assist. My guess is you are one of the ones that never goes along to assist and then whines about how everyone else isn't watching your kids for you then coming over to mow your lawn after they get home after spending 2 days entertaining your kids.

    Why don't you get up off the couch and go help supervise rather than pontificating on what everyone else should be doing because you think that is how it should be.

  • Tators Hyrum, UT
    Dec. 2, 2013 2:29 p.m.

    @ Meckofahess:

    The article gave only a brief synopsis of the court ruling. One would need more detail to make a more objective and definitive analysis.

    But from the limited information given, my take is that the court is saying some common sense must prevail. The Church was not being negligent by not "holding the hands" of all participants throughout all the activities involved. A normal amount of adult supervision was given and aid immediately available should an accident happen... which it did... and which was.

    The young adults participating were just that... young adults (teenagers) and not little children. They are required to assume a certain level of responsibility for their own actions. If not, then these types of organized activities would soon cease altogether and our youth would then miss out on a lot of wonderful life experiences... albeit with a certain amount of risk involved.

    The reward-risk ratio is considered acceptable. Otherwise, very few parents would let their kids participate. Some of my fondest memories in younger years involved these types of activities with friends.

    May they continue for many others and for many years to come.

  • maclouie Falconer, NY
    Dec. 2, 2013 2:01 p.m.


    "I do believe the leaders should and must try to prevent such acts."

    Really? Then let's cancel all activities and play Nintendo with Meckofahess.

  • maclouie Falconer, NY
    Dec. 2, 2013 1:56 p.m.

    Inappropriate for "A Scientist" to change the subject and interject a doctrinal error but in this case it exposes his/her misunderstanding of what LDS or religious doctrine is. If one does not understand, one becomes cynical.

    Now that we understand "A Scientist" perhaps we can be more compassionate towards him/her.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Dec. 2, 2013 1:29 p.m.

    Adults/leaders supervising activities should have some kind of training or review of potential hazards and basic first-aid.

    For example, jumping off places over bodies of water can be hazardous. Did an adult survey the landing zone to make sure there were no hidden objects in the water? Perhaps the girl wouldn't have jumped where she did if an adult had been aware of the proximity to the bridge support. They could've guided her to a safer spot.

  • Meckofahess Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 2, 2013 1:22 p.m.

    So if the law does not require a church leader "to act in such a way as to protect children from injury or exposure to dangerous conditions." Does that mean when our youth go on Church outings that the leaders can just turn their heads and let them do whatever they want? Sound like we would be putting our kids in considerable danger! That is what was implied in the ruling. While I don't think a church leader should be held responsible for an irresponsible act committed by a child, I do believe the leaders should and must try to prevent such acts.

  • athought Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 2, 2013 1:09 p.m.

    I always told my kids before they went on any church activities that they knew acceptable behavior and if because of them doing something stupid and getting hurt, there was no one to blame but themselves. Had the discussion many times of "if someone else is stupid enough to do it, do you also become as stupid to try it". Sounds like this was an affirmative from the girl. Hesitant so jumped in a safer place over a bridge truss, instead of following her instincts and saying no. Looks like it was her decision, not anyone's from the outing. I'm grateful there are people there to assist them and take them on outings, but the decisions they make are not the leader's responsibility.

  • Big Bubba Herriman, UT
    Dec. 2, 2013 12:54 p.m.

    It does not look like the church leaders were intentionally negligent, thus this court case seems to be about getting a hand into the deep pockets of the church. Good call ISC!

  • Tators Hyrum, UT
    Dec. 2, 2013 12:54 p.m.

    I've read enough of "A Scientist" past comments to various church related articles to know when he (or she) is or isn't being sarcastic with his (or her) particular anti-religion viewpoints.

    But I do agree with A Scientist and Fred Vader in that it was indeed a good decision by the court. Any other decision would have only further promoted our already too widespread something-for-nothing mentality in society. Unfortunately, too many people try to abdicate any personal responsibility in trying to find somebody else accountable for any of their questionable decisions in life.

    However, I do respectfully disagree about churches not having the power and authority to help people... regarding A Scientist's "or anything else" overly vague claim. Churches often help people with food, utility payments and/or other temporal needs when a person or family finds themselves temporarily in bad circumstances due to job layoffs, ill health or other extenuating circumstances.

    They also provide social needs for many people, as well as that much needed and usually appreciated spiritual counseling.

    If you actually were "a scientist", you would know that just saying something (your opinion) doesn't necessarily make something so.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    Dec. 2, 2013 12:54 p.m.

    Dear Spikey,

    Some people will sue over anything!

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Dec. 2, 2013 12:28 p.m.

    I wouldn't automatically assume this outcome in Idaho would be the same in every other state. Other states might have different laws.

    Parents need to be very careful about letting their children attend church outings. Sometimes there is not enough adult supervision or the "adults" supervising lack judgement and maturity. One of our children ended up with a broken arm--called us while on the outing complaining about his arm hurting. He only received a cursory exam and some Tylenol after he called us. No ace bandage, no sling or anything until he got back and we took him to an urgent care. I was horrified the next day when one of the "adults" supervising the activity told an "amusing" (in his mind) story about going off to do some skiiing with another adult and finding my son and another youngster at the top of a double-black diamond, alone, at the ski resort. (unfamiliar with the resort, they had accidentally gotten on the wrong lift).

    There needs to be at least one adult specifically assigned to a small number of youth. Boating/water activities should have extremely close supervision.

  • Spikey Layton, UT
    Dec. 2, 2013 12:25 p.m.

    WOW. I can't believe they would sue over that.

  • Fred Vader Oklahoma City, OK
    Dec. 2, 2013 12:14 p.m.

    Hey! I actually agree with "A Scientist" for a change.

    1. Good decision by the court."

    2. Churches do not have "power, authority or special relationship to provide salvation, exaltation, or anything else." (Only God has the power, authority and special relationship to provide salvation, exaltation or anything else. Churches, in this case like the camping trip, are just the instrument through which God communicates His saving power, authority and special relationships)

  • JLR Eagle Mountain, UT
    Dec. 2, 2013 12:07 p.m.

    The parents sued because their daughter was dumb enough to jump off a bridge? What were the leaders supposed to do, catch her?

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    Dec. 2, 2013 11:29 a.m.

    "The justices upheld an earlier ruling by 4th District Court Judge Mike Wetherell concluding the church didn't have a special relationship with Beers that required it to keep her safe."

    Good decision by the court.

    I have always said, Churches not only have no power, authority, or "special relationship" to keep people safe, they also have no power, authority, or special relationship to provide salvation, exaltation, or anything else!