Y, a 12-year-old, attends a summer camp for children. The camp is in the middle of a state park that is noted for providing recreational opportunities such as hiking and fishing. One of the activities at the camp is firing rifles on an outdoor range. This activity is supervised by an instructor, an adult who is experienced and certified in firearms handling and training. The campers use .22 caliber rifles in this activity. A .22 is the smallest and least powerful commonly available rifle caliber. Nevertheless, a .22 bullet can be lethal to humans, and the instructor is aware of this fact. The instructor also knows that a .22 bullet can travel up to 2,000 yards when fired from a rifle.
The rifle range consists of a set of targets at one end, and a long, waist-high bench at the other end. When using the range, the participants stand at the bench to fire their rifles at the targets.
Y is one of four 12-year-olds participating in a rifle session. The instructor knows that none of the participants have prior experience with firearms. The instructor and the four participants are the only people present during the activity.
Before handing out the rifles, the instructor lectures the participants on safety. The instructor emphasizes that under no circumstances should the participants allow their rifles to point anywhere but straight downrange, toward the targets. The instructor tells the participants that if they experience a problem with a rifle, they should set the rifle on the bench, pointing toward the targets, then step back from the bench to ask for help. These instructions are consistent with generally accepted practices for rifle safety.
The instructor has the participants line up along the bench, with Y at the far left, and another participant, X, to Y’s immediate right. The instructor, standing a few steps to Y’s left, tells the participants that they may fire at the targets. X’s rifle malfunctions, and X turns toward the instructor for help.
As X turns, he unthinkingly allows his rifle to turn to the left, toward Y. The rifle goes off, and the bullet strikes Y, causing personal injury. X’s rifle immediately goes off a second time. The second bullet travels past Y, through an adjacent stand of trees, to a lake on the other side. There, the bullet strikes and injures a boater. The lake is not visible from the firing range, and neither the instructor nor the participants are aware that the lake exists. The second bullet travels 500 yards before striking the boater.
- Did the instructor owe Y a duty to control X? Explain.
- Is the instructor liable to Y for negligent entrustment? Explain.
- Was the boater a sufficiently foreseeable plaintiff to give rise to a duty on the part of the instructor? Explain.