$25,000 for Rescue fine for un-needed Rescue

$25,000 for Rescue fine for un-needed Rescue

This is a discussion on $25,000 for Rescue fine for un-needed Rescue within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; Not RKBAs related...; but.... From an outdoor list, which I belong to: Outdoor Liability Attorney Jim Moss wrote this, which has been edited to reduce ...

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Thread: $25,000 for Rescue fine for un-needed Rescue

  1. #1
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    Thumbs down $25,000 for Rescue fine for un-needed Rescue

    Not RKBAs related...; but....

    From an outdoor list, which I belong to:

    Outdoor Liability Attorney Jim Moss wrote this, which has been edited to reduce its length.

    It's the most outrageous piece of misuse of government over-regulation that I've seen in years!!

    A teen was charged $25K for a rescue he did not need. Here's the story: A 17 year old Eagle Scout went hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire last April. He sprained an ankle, tried a different route out, it failed and he spent 3 days backtracking. In the mean time a Search and Rescue was called. He was found, hiking, OK and not needing a rescue.

    Three months later the state of New Hampshire sent him a bill for his non-rescue for $25,000. They are saying that he was negligent. Fish and Game Maj. Tim Acerno said the decision to fine Mason came from what was deemed as the teen's negligence for continuing a hike with an injury -- a sprained ankle -- and veering off a trial to what Mason recalled was a shortcut. Only the shortcut was cut short by a stream swollen from melting snow and snow still on the ground in April.

    Another article quotes the state as saying: Scott Mason had been praised for utilizing his Eagle Scout skills — sleeping in the crevice of a boulder and jump-starting fires with hand sanitizer gel. But he wasn't prepared for the conditions he encountered and shouldn't have set out on such an ambitious hike."Yes, he'd been out there in July when you could step across the brooks. And people have been out there in winter in hard-packed snow. But with these spring conditions, it was soft snow, it was deep snow," said Fish and Game Maj. Tim Acerno. Mason was negligent in continuing up the mountain with an injury and veering off the marked path. Negligence, he said, is based on judging what a reasonable person would do in the same situation.

    So . . . . In New Hampshire it's negligent to hike with a sprained ankle! Or is it negligent to try and take a shortcut when you sprain an ankle? So now hiking is OK now, but only in the summertime? A "reasonable" person would have laid down and died, or spent hours watching his cell phone battery die. This kid has guts; he got himself out of the jam and was walking home! A well trained individual got in trouble and got himself out of trouble. Now the state wants money from him?

    Are you mad yet? Here is the actual Hew Hampshire statute:

    206:26-bb Search and Rescue Response Expenses; Recovery.

    I. Notwithstanding RSA 153-A:24, any person determined by the department to have acted negligently in requiring a search and rescue response by the department shall be liable to the department for the reasonable cost of the department's expenses for such search and rescue response. The executive director shall bill the responsible person for such costs. Payment shall be made to the department within 30 days after the receipt of the bill, or by some other date determined by the executive director. If any person shall fail or refuse to pay the costs by the required date, the department may pursue payment by legal action, or by settlement or compromise, and the responsible person shall be liable for interest from the date that the bill is due and for legal fees and costs incurred by the department in obtaining and enforcing judgment under this paragraph. All amounts recovered, less the costs of collection and any percentage due pursuant to RSA 7:15-a, IV(b), shall be paid into the fish and game search and rescue fund established in RSA 206:42.

    II. f any person fails to make payment under paragraph I, the executive director of the fish and game department may:

    (a) Order any license, permit, or tag issued by the fish and game department to be suspended or revoked, after due hearing.

    (b) Notify the commissioner of the department of health and human services of such nonpayment. The nonpayment shall constitute cause for revocation of any license or certification issued by the commissioner pursuant to RSA 126-A:20 and RSA 151:7.

    (c) Notify the director of motor vehicles of such nonpayment and request suspension of the person's driver's license pursuant to RSA 263:56.

    Note that no jury, no court, no judicial authority makes the determination as to whether or not there was real negligence. Under most state laws, no "department" can determine if someone is negligent. That is left solely within the power of the courts.

    The young man has until August 9th to pay the bill or to go to supposedly court to contest the fine. I don't see anywhere in the statute where he has an option of going to court. But he should and we should help. For more information on helping Scott Mason please read to the end.

    Negligent Hiking?

    Its not clear how the state can create a law about negligent hiking. In 25 years practicing law, 20 years specializing in outdoor recreation and I've never heard of or even thought of the idea of negligent hiking or negligent self rescue. What constitutes negligence when going for a hike? Negligence is composed of four steps all of which must be met. There must be a:

    duty,
    a breach of that duty,
    an injury, and
    damages proximately caused by the breach of the duty.

    What is the basic duty that was breached? Does a hiker owe the state a duty not to get hurt or lost? (Or does the state owe the hiker a risk free trail and signs so the hiker does not get hurt or lost like in any downtown city in the US?). Where is the duty owed and to whom? Citizens only owe the state a duty if the state by law has said there is a duty. The best example is to pay taxes. Not to walk the way the state wants you to walk in the woods.

    If we don't get involved to fight this law several major things are going to happen.
    SAR is going to get messier. A fine is not going to stop people from going hiking or doing stupid things.Instead of calling when things are bad people who fear a $25K or higher bill will wait till it is too late.

    The capstone for this is the family of the rescued young man sent $1000.00 to the search and rescue group for helping to find Scott BEFORE they heard from the state.

    If you would like to contribute to the Rescue Scott Mason Fund please send a check to:

    Scott Mason Contribution Fund
    Mutual Bank
    336 Plymouth Street
    Halifax, MA 02338

    What else can you do?

    Avoid New Hampshire! New Hampshire has no income tax, and is famous for balancing their budget on taxes affecting out-of-staters. The state should not place people in a position where they must measure the value of their life in the outdoors against their ability to pay. If we stay away from New Hampshire because of these risks, the state may catch on.

    Contact the governor of New Hampshire and let him know that charging a young man 25K for not being rescued is absurd! Ask him to cancel the rescue fee and change the law or you will boycott the state.

    Office of the Governor
    State House
    25 Capitol Street
    Concord, NH 03301
    (603)271-2121
    (603)271-7680

    Contact the New Hampshire fish and wildlife division and let them know what you think. Their email: info©wildlife.nh.gov.
    Also see:

    Eagle Scout Lost on Mountain Fined $25,000 for Rescue - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News - FOXNews.com

    Eagle Scout Lost on Mountain Fined $25,000 for Rescue
    Friday, July 17, 2009

    CONCORD, N.H. — A Massachusetts teenager who spent three nights alone on Mount Washington in April after he sprained an ankle and veered off marked trails has been fined more than $25,000 for the cost of his rescue.

    Scott Mason had been praised for utilizing his Eagle Scout skills — sleeping in the crevice of a boulder and jump-starting fires with hand sanitzer gel. But authorities say he wasn't prepared for the conditions he encountered and shouldn't have set out on such an ambitious hike.

    "Yes, he'd been out there in July when you could step across the brooks. And people have been out there in winter in hard-packed snow. But with these spring conditions, it was soft snow, it was deep snow," said Fish and Game Maj. Tim Acerno.

    Acerno said he believes Mason's fine is the largest ever sought under a 9-year-old New Hampshire law that allows lost hikers and climbers to be charged for rescue costs. Mason's rescue was particularly expensive because the helicopters the state typically used were unavailable, and a helicopter from Maine had to be brought in, Acerno said.

    Mason, 17, of Halifax, Mass., had planned to spend one day hiking 17 miles in the New Hampshire mountains but ended up lost after he hurt his ankle and decided to take a shortcut. The shortcut led him into rising water and deep snow caused by unseasonably warm weather.

    Mason was negligent in continuing up the mountain with an injury and veering off the marked path, Acerno said. Negligence, he said, is based on judging what a reasonable person would do in the same situation.

    "When I twist my ankle, I turn around and come down. He kept going up," Acerno said.

    "It was his negligence that led to him getting into that predicament," he said. "Once he was in that predicament, yes, that's what we praise him for — he used his Boy Scout skills, and that's why he's still alive."

    Several states, including neighboring Maine and Vermont, have rescue repayment laws similiar to New Hampshire, though others tend to be more lenient. In Washington state, a bill that would have created a reimbursement system with fines capped at $500 never even made it out of committee this year. In New Hampshire, however, lawmakers made it even easier to charge for rescues last year when they changed the law to allow fines for those who acted negligently instead of the harder to prove standard of recklessness.

    New Hampshire officials have estimated that they could seek reimbursement in about 40 of the 140 or so rescues it typically handles each year. The money goes to the Fish and Game department's rescue fund. In most cases, hikers pay a few hundred dollars.

    For the fiscal year that ended June 30, there were 131 missions that cost $175,320, Acerno said. He did not know how many of them resulted in fines.

    Mason's family said they would not comment on the bill, which was mailed July 10. Mason has until August 9 to pay the bill; he could also take the state to court to contest the fine.
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  2. #2
    Distinguished Member Array tinkerinWstuff's Avatar
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    I have to think about this one for a bit. My initial reaction has me pissed off but...

    Here in Colorado, you are supposed to sign in at the trail head. If you don't return when people expected you to make it out of the woods, all they can do is assume your life is in jeapordy and come looking - and that's not free. I was a member of a mounted search and rescue team when I lived in WI.

    So from the article, I read it to say that he was late coming out of the woods due to an injury. He was lucky that he was making his way out under his own power but it could have gone the other way too... Had he been laying there with a broken ankle or compound fracture, he'd be singing a different tune when S&R showed up to rescue him.

    On a side note, Colorado has a small fee attached to hunting and fishing licenses for search and rescue fees. Some state areas required that you had paid the search and rescue fee even to use the area for hiking. However, I'm not sure if you still get hammered with a big bill if you need the S&R services or not.
    "Run for your life from the man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another-their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun."

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    Senior Member Array gdm320's Avatar
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    Backpacking and hiking is actually my #1 hobby and passion. The fine is ludicrous, front and back.
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    The Fish and Feathers Maj. needs to be 'rescued' from his job.
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    Senior Member Array Jackle1886's Avatar
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    So let me get this right, if he had broken his ankle, and was sitting there, he's ok. But since it was only sprained, and he was trying to make it out, he's fined. Someone PLEASE explain this logic to me. Sounds like the "wussification" of America to me.
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  6. #6
    Distinguished Member Array tinkerinWstuff's Avatar
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    No doubt the amount he's being charged is rediculous.

    I guess I'm not sure why it's called a fine when you are reimbursing for services received.

    Edit:
    Alright, I can see why they call it a fine after reading this part of the first article:
    The capstone for this is the family of the rescued young man sent $1000.00 to the search and rescue group for helping to find Scott BEFORE they heard from the state.
    "Run for your life from the man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another-their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun."

    Who is John Galt?

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    VIP Member Array packinnova's Avatar
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    Note to self...add an extra 2 days to my next planned hike at the sign in sheet just in case....
    "My God David, We're a Civilized society."

    "Sure, As long as the machines are workin' and you can call 911. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, and you scare the crap out of them; no more rules...You'll see how primitive they can get."
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    Note:

    It's a fine for Negligence nor a fee for services.

    Acerno defines what reasonable person would do based on "When I twist my ankle, I turn around and come down."

    Mason was negligent in continuing up the mountain with an injury and veering off the marked path, Acerno said. Negligence, he said, is based on judging what a reasonable person would do in the same situation.

    "When I twist my ankle, I turn around and come down. He kept going up," Acerno said.

    "It was his negligence that led to him getting into that predicament," he said.
    Now I'm (or was before the Docs restricted me) a long distant hiker. No one in the "wussified" general public would think it was reasonable to put a pack on your back and hike a 2000+ miles. So, should any thru hikers that get rescued from the AT in NH expect the same fine?
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    Negligence has to based on the 'reasonable man' argument. A trained Eagle Scout is not the same as Joe-Bob Day-Hiker. If this goes to court, the Boy Scouts need to give Mason an attorney who can show the jury why the kid's actions were reasonable given Mason's knowledge and skills at the time of the incident.
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  10. #10
    Distinguished Member Array tinkerinWstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveH View Post
    Note:

    It's a fine for Negligence nor a fee for services.

    Acerno defines what reasonable person would do based on "When I twist my ankle, I turn around and come down."
    I agree. I guess I tried to look at it from other perspectives before making up my mind and truthfully, I didn't read the whole post as carefully as I should have.
    "Run for your life from the man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another-their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun."

    Who is John Galt?

  11. #11
    VIP Member Array edr9x23super's Avatar
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    Sounds like the state of New Hampshire is trying to recover their costs because of the down economy....
    "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined". - Patrick Henry

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    Senior Member Array Daddy Warcrimes's Avatar
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    OK, one thing I do not see in these articles:
    who requested the rescue?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackle1886 View Post
    So let me get this right, if he had broken his ankle, and was sitting there, he's ok. But since it was only sprained, and he was trying to make it out, he's fined. Someone PLEASE explain this logic to me. Sounds like the "wussification" of America to me.
    I think the problem is more that he left the trail and set off on his own...

    When you're on a trail it's a lot easier to find you.
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    I would like to see the break down of the costs.

    It doesnt seem to be a fine for negligence to me but rather a fee for services. They state in the article that the cost of the rescue effort was $25,000 which is what hes being charged. This is like a fire dept. or police agency charging for their services, which has been outlawed in a number of states and for good reason... The taxpayers pay for it!
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    Member Array Holger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbone View Post
    It doesnt seem to be a fine for negligence to me but rather a fee for services.
    A service that was unrequested and unnecessary.

    Tow truck driver: Well, we saw your car parked on the street and it didn't move for 7 days. We thought you might need help.

    Me: Well, gee, thanks, but the cars fine. No help necessary.

    Tow truck driver: Great! That's good news. You owe me $1000.

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