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Boy Scouts Cleared on Camp’s E. Coli Outbreak

(CN) - The Boy Scouts of America cannot be sued for a camper's E. coli infection, but litigation can go forward against the supplier of tainted meat the scouts consumed, a federal judge ruled.

After 84 Boy Scout campers became sick from ground beef infected by E. coli at a scout camp in 2008, one camper who suffered serious complications filed a lawsuit against S&S Foods, LLC, Boy Scouts of America, and National Capital Area Council (NCAC) Boy Scouts of America Council #82.

Harrison King's $15 million negligence suit alleged that not only was S&S negligent for allowing infected meat to be distributed to customers, but the Boy Scouts were also negligent in not providing proper instruction and supervision to ensure the scouts cooked their meat to a temperature that would kill all diseases.

The Boy Scouts filed a motion to dismiss the charges arguing the evidence did not support a legal finding of gross negligence, and U.S District Judge Norman Moon agreed.

A legal finding of gross negligence in Virginia requires a disregard for the safety of others that "would shock fair minded people," Moon wrote.

For King's charges against the Boy Scouts to move forward, he must prove the defendants showed an utter disregard for the scout's safety, the judge said.

Before the camping trip, King's scout leader received a Leader's Guide from NCAC that detailed safe food preparation and handling, as well as instructions on how to cook a foil dinner. King received similar materials, also including instructions for a foil dinner, which is the type of meal alleged to cause his illness. Troop leaders also "consistently stressed" the importance of cooking food thoroughly until no pink showed, the defendants said.

Further, King failed to meet his burden to oppose the judgment by his inability to identify anything that suggests a genuine issue of material fact, Moon wrote.

Both Boy Scout defendants were dismissed from the case.

S&S filed its own motion for summary judgment on March 24, stating that the only ground beef found to be infected was beef in open packaging at Camp Goshen, and there was no evidence that the infection originated in the S&S factory. S&S followed all the required safety procedures when processing and distributing its ground beef, the company asserted.

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