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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Mormons Off Hook for Bridge Stunt Injuries

(CN) - A couple cannot collect damages from the Mormon church after their teenage daughter jumped off a bridge following a retreat, Idaho's highest court ruled.

Gregory and Caralee Beers filed a negligence and child abuse lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and 14 individual defendants in 2009. The couple claimed their daughter Heidi had jumped off a bridge into the Payette River along with several other children while attending a campout organized by members of the church two years earlier.

Heidi's parents did not attend the campout. She got a ride with a friend's mother, who testified that she understood Heidi's grandfather would be at the campout.

Several children at the campout dove off the bridge into the river on the evening of the campout, and more jumped the following morning while four adults supervised. But Heidi jumped from a spot that had not been confirmed to be safe and broke her ankle in the fall.

A trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the negligence claim but refused to drop the child abuse claim against the four adults who were at the bridge when Heidi jumped. Both sides appealed.

In a decision written by Justice Joel D. Horton, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled in the church's favor.

"By all accounts, the bridge jumping was not an official ward activity, it occurred a mile away from the location of the campout, and it took place after the conclusion of the last ward-planned activity," Horton wrote. In the Mormon faith, "ward" refers to a large single congregation.

Horton also said that the trial court should have dismissed the child abuse claims against the four adults at the bridge.

"The difficulty for the Beerses is that the statute does not impose a duty upon the general public to act in such a way as to protect children from injury or exposure to dangerous conditions," Horton wrote.

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