Sweat Lodge Lawsuit Makes Guru Break Into Sweat
According to the AP, the first two of what will surely be a rash of lawsuits over a sweat lodge ceremony gone bad has been filed this past Friday.
Three people died during a sweat lodge ceremony lead by the infamous spiritual guru James Arthur Ray. Another 20 individuals suffered from a range of physical problems such as breathing difficulties and vomiting.
Ray and his employees allegedly stood by the door of the sweat lodge enclosure and denied participants from exiting the lodge when they felt sick.
OnPoint News reports: "But in one of the two premises liability lawsuits filed Oct. 30 in Coconino County (Ariz.) Superior Court, survivor Sidney Spencer goes further, alleging Ray and unnamed employees were negligent in denying participants, like the Plaintiff, from exiting the lodge when they became uncomfortable and instead intimidating them and cajoling them to not leave the sweat lodge despite the excessive heat and fumes."
Each participant was required to sign a waiver of liability in order to attend the Spiritual Warrior Event that states: "I am fully aware that I may suffer physical, emotional, financial and other injury during any of the activities."
However, Arizona law does not allow a waiver to protect against gross negligence.
This brings up the question: What makes a waiver invalid?
A waiver is typically invalid if there is gross negligence. Gross neglience is if an injury results because of intentional and reckless behavior. You are not barred from seeking and collecting damages under such circumstances even if your state recognizes waivers of liability.
Another way that a waiver can be held to be invalid is if your waiver was considered to be involuntary.
Well it seems that the people involved with this tragedy definitely want to see that Ray no longer conducts spiritual sweat lodge ceremonies. They also want to invalidate that waiver that they all signed. It seems that Ray has cancelled his 2009 roster in response. Check out the story in the related resources section.
With so many people who died and were hurt during the process, who can blame them? Stay tuned to further developments on this story.
- Some Special Situations: ABA Legal Guide to Personal Injury (Findlaw)
- Gross Negligence and Lack of "Informed Consent" (Findlaw)
- Author delays events after Arizona sweat lodge deaths (CNN)
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