Sports & Recreation Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Plaintiff filed suit after being assaulted at one of the defendant’s overnight camps.  The plaintiff hired a Sports & Recreation Expert Witness to provide testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court denied the motion.

Facts: This case (“R.D” v. Shohola Camp Ground and Resort – United States District Court – Middle District of Pennsylvania – November 13th, 2018) involves a claim of negligence, negligent supervision, battery, and negligence per se after the plaintiff was sexually assaulted on one of the defendant’s overnight camping trips.  The plaintiff has hired Sports & Recreation Expert Witness Hal Pugach to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude Mr. Pugach from testifying.

Discussion:  Pugach is an attorney and has been certified by the American Camp Association (“ACA”) as a director of an overnight camp for over twenty years.  Pugach opines that the defendant had a duty to protect and maintain the safety and welfare of the campers who were entrusted to its care.  He continues by opining that the defendant’s lack of supervision was not in accordance with camping industry practices, the ACA guidelines, or the camp’s own policies.  He also opines that adequate supervision of the minor campers would have prevented a sexual assault by one camper of another one.

The court opines that Pugach’s report relies on the ACA Guidelines, which require age-appropriate determinations for campers as well as the defendant’s Standard Operating Procedures Manual for his opinion that the defendant did not follow its own supervision ratios.

The court opines that Mr. Pugach is qualified to give his opinion, that his opinion is reliable, and that his opinion fits the facts at issue in this case.

Fist, the court opines that Mr. Pugach has specialized knowledge based on his twenty years of experience as an ACA camp director.  As executive director of a camp in Sussex, New Jersey, he has established and implemented camp policies, practices, and procedures.  In addition, the court opines that he is familiar with the ACA Guidelines and practices, as he employs these in his own camp.

The defendant argues that Pugach’s opinion regarding the separation of campers does not have a basis and is based on his subjective belief, and should therefore be unreliable.  The court opines that Mr. Pugach states that the ACA Guidelines require the camp to make age-appropriate determinations with its campers and to supervise them adequately.  In addition, he points to the defendant’s own policy of dividing the campers by age group as the result of his opinion that younger campers need to be separated from older campers.

Last, the court opines that Mr. Pugach’s opinion “fits” the facts at issue in this case.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Hal Pugach is denied.