December 13, 2020
Dear zone presidents and division presidents,
In preparing the CSP guidelines for patrolling in a COVID-19 impacted environment across Canada, our focus is to protect patrollers from contracting the disease and preventing its transmission to others. The guidelines we have provided to you were developed in consultation with public health authorities across Canada, our own Medical Advisory Committee and the various ski industry associations. The context across the country is changing daily as case counts change. Nonetheless, the guidelines published provide solid, evidence-based protection to prevent contracting and transmitting viral particles when interacting closely with a patient or the public.
This being said, we have been asked about the possible impact of a potential (but low probability) event, namely if patrollers were to be (unknowingly) infected, would they be protected from a lawsuit alleging that a he or she transmitted the virus to a patient or a member of the public. There are two answers to this question:
- Any person can make a Statement of Claim to a court alleging negligence. The CSP and patrollers have been sued in the past, generally without success, but not frequently. We consider that the chances of being sued for such a transmission (evidently involuntary, and NOT negligent) are extremely small.
- Should an infected person still decide to take legal action, you must be aware that the Canadian Ski Patrol insurance policy contains a specific exclusion for claims related to COVID-19 made against the CSP or its members. To be clear, our insurer will not pay for any possible damages that may be considered payable to the plaintiff, and will probably also refuse to even provide legal counsel for the CSP and its members for their defense. We have asked our insurance broker to quote us for a rider to remove this exclusion, and are awaiting their reply.
The decision to patrol this season is yours alone and we believe that you should make a fully informed decision. Still, we consider that the above exclusion should not be blown out of proportion. Where some of the infections can be traced to contact within the community (known as community spread) the ability to prove that a patroller may have been the single source of infection in Court would generally be very difficult, if not impossible. Furthermore, no negligence would be found, unless the patroller knew that he or she was infected. However, the risk is not zero; it never is. To reduce the risk, remember this from your training:
For all advanced first aid activities including patient assessment and treatments, patrollers should take all droplet and contact precautions.
This year is a particular challenge for us. Remember your training and follow the guidelines from your local Public Health Authorities, your resort and the CSP. This is your best protection. If you have questions regarding how the CSP handles legal matters, please talk to your division president.
If the situation changes, further updates will be provided to division and zone presidents.
Co-Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Co-Executive Director (email@example.com)
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