Legal Considerations for Summer Camps 2020
By Tiffany Donaldson, Esq.
April 12, 2020
Operating a camp is fraught with legal risk, it always has been. However, summer camps that open this year will face new legal concerns stemming from the potential spread of the Coronavirus. Camps can work to protect themselves from lawsuits related to the spread of COVID-19 by taking the following steps:
#1. Have a Customer Contract.
Every year, every camp should require the parents/legal guardians of each camper under age 18 (“Camper Guardians”) to enter into a contract with the Camp (the “Customer Contract”) before allowing the camper to attend. This contract sets the terms of the interactions between the camp, the camper, and the Camper Guardians, and informs all parties of their risks and responsibilities.
#2. Customer Release Clause.
The Customer Contract should already include a release clause, whereby the Camper Guardians release the Camp from certain liabilities. The release clause should be updated this year, to protect the camp from lawsuits related to the spread of Coronavirus. Camps should include a clause whereby Camper Guardians release and hold harmless the camp from any and all liability related to or stemming from the camper, or any other third-party, contracting the Coronavirus deriving from the Camper’s experience and time at the Camp.
#3. Acceptance of Camp Conditions.
The Customer Contract should include a clause that states that the Camper Guardian has been informed of i) how the camp will operate this year in light of COVID-19 concerns, including activities, interaction of campers, social distancing, eating conditions, and sleeping conditions, etc., ii) that the Camper Guardian is aware of all CDC recommendations in place regarding human interactions and the spread of COVID-19, and iii) that Camper Guardian voluntarily allows the camper to attend the Camp with conditions as disclosed, at the Camper Guardian’s own risk.
Camps should be sure to follow any and all policies that they represent to Camper Guardians and/or the public that they will follow. Failure to follow disclosed policies will create legal liability.
#4. Contract Affirmations as a form of Screening.
As part of the Customer Contract, Camps should require Camper Guardians to affirm that the camper has no known predispositions to health conditions that are at a higher risk for severe illness upon contracting Coronavirus.
If the Camper Guardian cannot affirm such, the camper should not be invited to summer camp. This is not a discriminatory action. Instead, this form of screening through use of contracts acts to protect the life of the camper. It is not safe for a camper who has a predisposition to severe illness upon contracting Coronavirus to attend at this time.
#5. Health Profile.
The Customer Contract should include that the Camper Guardians must provide an in-depth health profile of the Camper and up-to-date medical records in order to attend. The Camp should reserve the right to prevent any Camper from attending based on predispositions disclosed in the health profile, or failure to immunize, where safety is the basis for not letting the Camper attend.
NYC law requires every camper to have a record of thorough medical examination by a licensed physician within one year prior to admission. This record must be signed and must have current medical history, including the child’s immunization record, such as immunization dates for diphtheria, measles, mumps, poliomyelitis, rubella and tetanus. This medical record must be kept on file for every camper and updated annually.
#6. Control of the Camp.
In the Customer Contract, the Camp should reserve the right to require a Camper Guardian to retrieve their camper at any time, for any or no reason. This clause may be invoked where the health or safety of the Camper or other Campers is the reason, but also allows for sending home a disruptive camper, etc.
#7. Avoid Discrimination.
While Camps should be cognizant of only allowing healthy campers to attend who do not pose health risks to themselves or others through attending, camps should avoid discriminating against persons with disabilities. Learn more about a camps’ responsibilities to avoid discrimination under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act here: https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/articles/ada-title-iii-what-does-it-mean-camp-programs
#8. All Parents and Guardians Should Sign.
Camps should be sure to require all Parents and/or Legal Guardians of the camper to sign the Customer Contract. Because legal guardians are not always in agreement, you do not want one parent/guardian to sign the Customer Contract and be sued by the other parent/guardian who did not sign and was not in agreement therewith.
#9. Attorney’s Fees.
Camps should always include an Attorney’s Fees clause in the Customer Contract. The clause should require that if any party brings an action to enforce the Customer Contract, the non-prevailing party will pay all of the Court Costs and reasonable Attorney’s fees of the prevailing party. You should specify that this includes any and all collections costs, including all fees, court costs, professional fees, and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in collections of any judgment thereon.
Customer Contracts (and all contracts) should include the jurisdiction of where the Contract is enforceable. You generally want to choose the state where the Camp owners would prefer to go to Court (preferably the state the camp is located in, however it is not required to be).
Draft or update your Customer Contracts now, so that you can be prepared if Camps are given the green light to open. Do you need assistance with contract drafting? Contact Donaldson Legal Counseling PLLC for a free consultation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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