Court ruling, hiker must pay SAR bill

ogg

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Jan 23, 2015
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Recently, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that a hiker must pay his rescue bill, upholding the State's assertion that his actions resulting in the rescue were negligent.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/...scue_n_7181022.html?utm_hp_ref=green&ir=Green

I have mixed feelings about this but for the most I think New Hampshire's fine and ruling was unwarranted, based on the limited information in the article. I'm familiar with a some rescues that involved indisputably negligent behavior- two recent widely publicized ones here in California involved the consumption of psychotropic drugs, for example- but it seems in this case, the state is being overly harsh since the hiker didn't purchase their $25 "Hike Safe" card. They also state that he was inadequately prepared but that assertion seems weakly supported. While poor preparation for a hike or climb in terms of equipment or necessary specialized skills training can in some cases be a viable factor, is it reasonable for the State to base their case on general physical conditioning or wellness? Does this case set a precedent for those who don't hit the gym every day to be held more liable for a rescue than those that do? If the state requires a certain amount of physical conditioning to undertake a hike and be thus considered adequately prepared, shouldn't there be a regulation that specifies exactly what that should be? If a personal physician gives the green light to undertake certain strenuous activity, shouldn't that count as the victim acting in good faith that he was prepared, physically?

Personally, I would have purchased the $25 card.
 

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
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I could have sworn that rescues outside NPS jurisdiction were generally the responsibility of the rescued... That isn't the case? Is this an issue because a state sponsored rescue team was used?

As for the rest of the talk, on physicality and preparedness, who freaking cares? When you do anything you assume risk, and when that risk bites you it is your responsibility because you assumed said risk. Resources were used, lives "endangered" (by you forcing them into the aforementioned risks), and, in this case, he didn't contribute the the collective pot. I'm all for him being fined, no matter how much I thought that was the norm...

Are we entitled to rescue? Do we have that right? And if we have that right, is it waived when you don't contribute to rescue funds or enter certain areas (the "No Rescue Wilderness" idea.) All very interesting questions to consider in this case.

....

I'm so baffled as to why preparedness is even an issue of discussion. Blows me away.
 

Bob

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Sadly, current society encourages a lot of individuals, not all having there hand out........ the age of entitlement....something for nothing on their part, not wanting to be responsible for their actions.
 
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What I don't like is the adjudication of "preparedness." If they are going to have a law that you have to pay for rescue if you don't buy a Hike Safe card, then the end of the inquiry should be did he buy one or not. It just wastes judicial resources and taxpayers' money for a court to have to decide on a case by case basis whether someone was adequately prepared. Consider someone who bought a card but was obviously unprepared and negligent. Should that person have to pay when rescued? In my mind the possibility of injury during a hike is foreseeable, regardless of preparation. If a card is required for rescue services at no extra cost, then you should be considered to have assumed the risk (or possibly be considered negligent as a matter of law) if you don't buy one. Maybe that seems harsh, but a line must be drawn unless the state is going to provide the service at taxpayer expense, and apparently New Hampshire has decided that it isn't going to do that. The line between card / no card is easier to determine and than some vague line between adequate and inadequate preparedness.
 

LarryBoy

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What I don't like is the adjudication of "preparedness." If they are going to have a law that you have to pay for rescue if you don't buy a Hike Safe card, then the end of the inquiry should be did he buy one or not. It just wastes judicial resources and taxpayers' money for a court to have to decide on a case by case basis whether someone was adequately prepared. Consider someone who bought a card but was obviously unprepared and negligent. Should that person have to pay when rescued? In my mind the possibility of injury during a hike is foreseeable, regardless of preparation. If a card is required for rescue services at no extra cost, then you should be considered to have assumed the risk (or possibly be considered negligent as a matter of law) if you don't buy one. Maybe that seems harsh, but a line must be drawn unless the state is going to provide the service at taxpayer expense, and apparently New Hampshire has decided that it isn't going to do that. The line between card / no card is easier to determine and than some vague line between adequate and inadequate preparedness.
Now here's the other side of the coin - do we really want unprepared hikers going out there, taking solace in the fact that they've paid their 25 bucks and are therefore entitled to rescue services? If I go hiking over Mt Madison in September wearing a T-shirt and jeans, does the 25 bucks I've paid absolve me of the costs of the rescue, and of the lives I've put at risk to bail me out?

Just a little food for thought :)
 

Bob

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LB......unfortunately they already go out in there Tshirts........ paying $25 or not they really don't think about it or care, they expect the help when they beckone... Most are only thinking of the moment.
 

Parma

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Do any of you seriously expect rescue services to be free?
Especially when your state offers a $25 card suggesting that if you don't purchase this card you are to pay for this on your own if you need this service.
 

Nick

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I don't even an expect a ride on an ambulance from a car accident to be free. Why would anyone expect rescue in the backcountry to be any different (if not way more)? $25 is such a bargain.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Just a clarification on the HikeSafe card. If SAR needs to come get you, and you are NOT deemed negligent, you don't have to foot the bill regardless of whether you have the card or not. This is why I think the card is BS. The State is basically saying "for the small price of $25, you can hike negligently and not be financially liable for your negligence". So, if you are a hiker who employs common sense and prepares properly, what's the motivation for buying the card?

I think that if you are negligent, you should pay regardless of whether you paid for some "card" or not. In this particular case, after reading several articles and following this story ad nauseum for a year on vftt.org (a forum on hiking the Whites) I believe the hiker WAS negligent. He had no problem paying thousands of dollars traveling from Michigan to hike in NH, and is willing to pay thousands in medical bills when arriving in the hospital (or thousands in health insurance over the years), but he doesn't want to pay the 15 rescue workers (not to mention the 35 volunteer rescuers) who spent hours working to transport him to safety? Someone on VFTT calculated that the 9k comes out to $16 per hour per paid rescuer (not counting the volunteers). That is certainly a bargain if you ask me.

I'm not saying older people with ailments shouldn't hike, but if you have major hip issues, go out in questionable weather to attempt an extremely strenuous hike (I have done this hike and it is VERY strenuous) with the weight of an overnight pack, and need SAR, you should expect to be billed.

If a group of prepared and capable hikers get pinned due to an unexpected landslide, to no fault of their own,and SAR comes and rescues them, and the State foots the bill, I'd be okay with that too.
 
Last edited:

gnwatts

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I think if the government bails out billionaire bankers, it should also help people who get themselves in trouble in the backcountry, no matter their IQ or experience, free of charge. Put unemployed backpackers to work rescuing all of the idiots out there!
Like it or not, people will continue to venture into the backcountry unprepared, and will require help.
Maybe require people who have been rescued to take a few backcountry preparedness classes, or volunteer their time.
 

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
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One of my favorite discussions during my collegiate schooling was a discussion about how our safety systems and technology affect visitation and the like. How SPOT devices, internet beta, and google maps not only aid exploration, but get people in over their heads. We discussed an experience in which a group in the Grand Canyon's backcountry SPOTed out three times because they weren't properly prepared (once because they didn't know where to get water, the second because they didn't know where to set up camp, and the third didn't matter, 3 strikes you're out.) I think the amount spent on NPS rescues was in the billiions every year, and the taxpayer is burdened by that because NPS doesn't charge rescuees the SAR bill. It is a growing problem as people rely on things other than themselves to broaden their ability to experience. These people are even more likely to not take responsibility for their rescue as well.

As a wilderness ranger I saw unpreparedness first hand. Flip flops on, small water bottle in hand, leaving the trail at four in the afternoon, to do a nine mile hike that they thought would be fun but knew nothing about. Once I had an old lady staring at a trail sign unsure of which way went to the parking lot. We had a couple rescued for hiking up the wrong mountain and spraining an ankle (an army ranger none the less.) It amazed me at how brazenly these people ventured forth, and those I could I asked about it. Some had a bs contingency: their out of service cell phones. Many just went for it. I'm not sure I could hold back giggles at their stupidity (I know I let out a lot while being told about the rescue) if I had to rescue these people. Then if they tried to stiff me on the bill... ouch.
 

Parma

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Reminds me of the 911 calls we hear too often of people calling because a McDonald's messed up their order.
 

ogg

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I think there's a tendency by the public and the media to conflate rescue services with medical services. Certainly, there is a lot of gray area that will always be difficult to reconcile. In most jurisdictions, rescues are not generally expected to be reimbursed except in cases of recklessness. New Hampshire opted to lower their threshold from recklessness to negligence. There are plenty of other types of rescues that do not occur in the backcountry that typically are not billed, such as responses to automobile or boating accidents, house fires, searches for missing children or elderly persons suffering from dementia. Those are all incidents that can and often do to varying degrees result from inattentiveness if not outright negligence. Many automobile and probably an even greater proportion of boating accidents occur from recklessness, yet being charged for rescues from such is uncommon (or maybe it isn't as uncommon as I think it is- I'd be interested to know if that is the case). As I understand it, in most jurisdictions, one could theoretically be pulled from danger in the mountains by helicopter and not be charged for the ride, but likely would be charged if the ride took them to the hospital and life supporting medical services were rendered along the way.
 
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