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Instructors take heed...

Steve - MSDT/Law Enforcement
August 31, 2007 at 08:34:20

As Dive Instructors, we are all familiar with the difficulties students can have while learning to SCUBA. That's why we have them sign multiple documents which proclaim in essence:  "I'm doing this voluntarily, I know it's dangerous and I might get hurt, but I'm doing it anyway".  We have been operating under the assumption that these documents were an reliable shield, relieving us of responsibility and protecting us from court action in the event of any kind of mishap.  The exception to this might be eggregious acts of "gross negligence" which everyone could look at and say "Oh yeah, that's gross negligence".

This article describes a very sad event, and we cannot forget when teaching that we really have peoples lives in our hands.  It also strips away the illusions we've had with regard to personal liability and we need to learn from it. The problem I'm having with the court's decision, is that the definition of "gross negligence" can be very subjective, and that's where our exposure lies.  I think we all can  imagine that a jury would be very sympathetic to a grieving mother, or widow, or...  You get the picture.

But my point here is this: If you are going to teach scuba, own a shop or dive boat, be a divemaster or take any kind of responsibility for someone else's wealfare, you had better have your act together.  You better apply "due diligence" at every level, and even then, you still might not be safe. Since I'm not getting rich teaching scuba, I'm going to have to evaluate whether or not I want to continue teaching and expose myself to the consequences of being considered "grossly negligent".

I see this decision as having a devastating effect on the dive industry. for starters, I think insurance rates will go up big time for instructors, dive shop owners, boat operators, et al.  This of course will get past on to the consumer, who is already complaining about costs. I know I will be much less tolerant of students who show up for class with the homework half done, or even the student who is trying, but just can't get it together in the pool.  I will work with that student, but that means more pool time, and again, more cost to the consumer. Instructors take heed.

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