The autopsy reports have just been released for the victims of the infamous “Sedona sweat lodge case”. The results indicate that "sweat" was a gross understatement for what happened that fateful night. Two victims died from heat stroke and a third died from multi-system organ failure. Some have called it negligence on the part of the proprietors. I would go one full step more and call it reckless disregard, and most likely, CRIMINAL. And of all places, it happened in one of the most serene and beautiful settings on our planet--to visitors seeking a spiritual experience from the world-famous guru James Ray.
James Ray is (was) a respected man who I've seen on Oprah, Larry King, and beyond. This guy was supposedly a professional, certainly a millionaire, who advertised his ability to build "Spiritual Warriors" out of his followers. I don't happen to follow Ray's books or teachings, and I can't make any judgments on his character or intentions. However, I have no doubt in my mind that he bears a significant portion of the responsibility of these completely preventable deaths, as well as the serious injuries to others.
ask you about a scenario:
you had some folks within the spectrum of your control, looking to you
for help and guidance. After some time, you noticed that several of
your guests began to vomit, feel ill, or even collapse from the conditions. Now, what would your reaction
be? Would you simply say "stay here--you need to
push past your physical weaknesses!"? I'm guessing the answer is no.
In fact, I'll go out on a limb and assume that most of us would do
anything we could to assist our guests physically and medically.
You would well think that an alleged “guru” like James Ray would know
better. The truth is, he DID know better. Did he do anything to
help? No. NOTHING. Rather, he actually scolded those who wanted to leave
his sweat lodge event. He just ignored these people, and the warning
signs. That is how tragedies occur. It is called reckless
disregard. In Arizona, both civil and criminal actions can follow.
Under Arizona law, he had a legal duty to assist and protect these people. They came to him for his superior knowledge and expertise. They literally paid him for this. His recklessness in assessing their fatal situation, and addressing their needs, means that he breached his legal duties to them. They died. Arizona law provides:
When death of a person is caused by wrongful act, neglect or default, and the act, neglect or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action to recover damages in respect thereof, then, and in every such case, the person who or the corporation which would have been liable if death had not ensued shall be liable to an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured, and although the death was caused under such circumstances as amount in law to murder in the first or second degree or manslaughter.
12-612. Parties plaintiff; recovery; distribution
- An action for wrongful death shall
be brought by and in the name of the surviving husband or wife, child, parent
or guardian, or personal representative of the deceased person for and on
behalf of the surviving husband or wife, children or parents, or if none of
these survive, on behalf of the decedent's estate.
- Either parent may maintain the
action for the death of a child, and the guardian may maintain the action for
the death of the guardian's ward.
- The amount
recovered in an action for wrongful death shall be distributed to the parties
provided for in subsection A in proportion to their damages, and if recovery is
on behalf of the decedent's estate the amount shall be an asset of the estate.
growing amount of evidence in this case is pointing directly to Ray. These events are unquestionably an example of what we call “wrongful death” in the state of Arizona, and it
will be interesting to see how the trial develops over the coming months.