Duty of Care of Professional Non-Profit Organization?
by Anonymous (USA)
My boyfriend was involved in a serious accident last weekend. He is in the trauma unit with multiple pelvic bone fractures. He has been there for six days and is about to be released to rehabilitation. He cannot walk and is in terrible, terrible pain.
His injury occurred on private property during a public event. At the event, the coordinator had her 15 year old son and 16 year old son's friend driving a John Deer tractor with a trailer hitched. They were given the task of hauling supplies back and forth from the clubhouse to the lake area shelter house where the event was being held, a quarter of a mile away.
The event coordinator asked my boyfriend to go to the clubhouse to get beer and ice for a cooler that was at the clubhouse. He rode on the back of the trailer. On his return - the young boy (coordinators son's friend) was driving the tractor and was driving too fast down a slope back to the shelter house. He made a quick turn near the bottom of the slope which made the trailer tumble over and break up with my boyfriend and the contents of the cooler slamming to the ground.
My question is: Does the non-profit organization have a duty of care to guests on the property? Did they violate it by allowing someone of his age to drive guests around?
Members of the organization seem to think that my boyfriend should not have taken the ride to the clubhouse and therefore he is responsible. I feel that they breached their duty of care and would be proven negligent by knowing and allowing my boyfriend to be driven by this young boy.
Thank you so much in advance for your insight on who would be the negligent party.
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ANSWER for "Duty of Care of Professional Non-Profit Organization?":
Your question is an excellent one. Let’s analyze this one section at a time...
From the facts you present it appears either the 15 or 16 year old boy was actually driving the vehicle. You state “…the coordinator had her 15 year old son and 16 year old son's friend driving.” Because you mentioned the driver was a young boy we will presume he was not a licensed driver.
We will presume the place your boyfriend was sitting on the tractor was not a place intended by the manufacturer to be a seat.
Whether the entity sponsoring the event was a not-for-profit corporation or not does not relieve them of liability for negligence. It would be important to know who owned the tractor.
If the tractor was owned by the Not-For-Profit organization and an adult associated with the organization directed the unlicensed boy to drive the tractor the liability seems clearly on the shoulders of the organization.
There is also something called "Contributory Negligence.” We presume your boyfriend is an adult. As an adult he accepted some liability for placing himself in the care of an unlicensed minor. Additionally your boyfriend accepted liability for what might happen as a result of his sitting on an area of the tractor which was not intended by the manufacturer to be a seat.
Because the driver of the vehicle was a minor there is a good possibility his parents will be liable for the injuries he caused. Believe it or not many times homeowner’s policies cover incidents just like this.
The best suggestion we can offer would be to “spray” liability on as many parties as possible. Then they can fight among themselves as to who is more liable.
Your boyfriend may have solid claims against the following parties:
1) Against the owner of the property; especially if the owner condoned or had reason to believe tractor trailers were to be driven on her property; and
2) Against the Not-For Profit Organization for sponsoring the event and directing an unlicensed minor to drive a tractor trailer; and
3) Against the parents of the minor driver.
Of course those you pursue will claim your boyfriend was contributorily negligent; and he may be, but that alone does not defeat his claim. It is not up to them to determine how much,if any, contributory negligence there was.
We do believe your boyfriend has a strong case. Putting all the pieces together will take some hard work. You might want to consult with an experienced Personal Injury Attorney. Most do not charge for an initial consultation. At least you will know what additional options you and your boyfriend may have.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
The accuracy of information provided on this site is not guaranteed. It is generic information for informal purposes only. It is NOT formal legal advice. Your use of this site does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Before relying on any information found in this site you should consult with a licensed attorney in your state. If you are currently represented by an attorney, you should strictly abide by his/her counsel.