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Boy Scouts avoid liability in E. coli lawsuit

The Boy Scouts of America won a two-stage victory in a lawsuit filed by a former scout who became severely ill after a camping trip in Virginia.

Harrison King, then 14, was among more than 80 campers who became ill after a 2008 gathering at a sprawling Boy Scout camp in Rockbridge County. King suffered brain damage as a result of his illness, according to his lawsuit.

A Virginia Department of Health report concluded the outbreak was caused in part by undercooked ground beef.

King sued both the Boy Scouts and the company that sold ground beef used at Camp Goshen. He claimed the meat supply was tainted and the Boy Scouts failed to ensure the meat was properly cooked.

U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon first ruled in November that the Boy Scouts were entitled to charitable immunity in King v. S&S Foods LLC, Boy Scouts of America (VLW 014-3-618).

At the time, Moon left the case open for the parties to explore whether there was evidence of gross negligence that would allow King’s claim to proceed against the Boy Scouts.

Based on evidence that the Boy Scout regional unit had provided guidance on the proper cooking of so-called “foil dinners” and on safe food handling generally, Moon rejected the allegations of gross negligence. He dismissed the Boy Scouts and the BSA regional unit on March 20 in King v. S&S Foods LLC (VLW 015-3-142).

King’s case remains pending against the food distributor. S&S Foods argues King has no reliable evidence that the E. coli bacterium originated with the meat it supplied.

Moon has not yet ruled on the S&S summary judgment motion.

Other campers also sued. A Washington state law firm reported it settled lawsuits on behalf of two other scouts sickened in the E. coli outbreak at the Goshen camp.

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