Boy Scouts of America ask court to dismiss wrongful death lawsuit of 11-year-old on Big Island
The Boy Scouts of America and its Aloha Council are denying the allegations levied against them in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of 11-year-old Manuel “Manny” Carvalho of Hilo.
The boy was killed last year in a gun accident at a shooting range during a Big Island Boy Scouts camp.
Two separate briefs were filed within 90 minutes or so of each other on Feb. 21 in 3rd Circuit Court by lawyers for the two parties, Andrew Chianese for the Boy Scouts of America and James Shin for the Aloha Council.
The family, which includes Manny’s parents Dave and Michele Carvalho of Hilo and five older siblings, filed its lawsuit on Jan. 17.
In its response, the Boy Scouts of America admits only that Manny died Aug. 28, 2022, “due to a gunshot while attending a Boy Scout Troop 19 Family Fun Day at Camp Honokāia,” which is located near Honoka‘a on the Big Island.
The Aloha Council admits the same and that it does indeed own and operate the camp where the incident took place.
The Boy Scouts of America denies any negligence and both parties say the cause of Manny’s death was from acts that were beyond their control and for which they are not liable. They also ask that the lawsuit against them be dismissed.
The Boy Scouts of America spoke to the media immediately following the incident last year, confirming Manny’s death and extending its condolences to his family, Troop members and the Aloha Council.
The Carvalho family’s suit names the Boy Scouts of America, the Boy Scouts of America Aloha Council and a Honolulu-based group that oversees Scouting in Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
The civil complaint charges the Boy Scouts of America with negligence and gross negligence, wrongful death and premises liability and alleges the Aloha Council failed to enforce a ban on human-shaped targets and zombie targets. Images of both, allegedly taken at Camp Honokāia, were included.
The lawsuit has been exempt from court-ordered arbitration, but no trial date has been scheduled. A March 10 conference is planned to set a trial date and other deadlines.
The Hawai’i Police Department said in September that 18 firearms and various ammunition were recovered at the camp following Manny’s death. Those guns were registered to three men, who were screened for 23 firearms offenses that were deferred to the Hawai‘i County prosecutor’s office.
According to reports, Hawai‘i County Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen deferred prosecution to the Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General, recusing himself and saying some of his staff members were at the camp when Manny died and could be witnesses.
The family’s lawsuit says Manny was a longtime Cub Scout who had just started sixth grade at Waiākea Intermediate School in Hilo before his death. The Troop 19 Family Fun Day at Camp Honokāia was his first Boy Scouts event. He died while sitting in a chair later that day when a bullet accidentally fired from an AK-47 assault rifle struck him in the back of his head.
“[W]ith the death of Manny, an integral part of their ‘ohana has been torn away,” the lawsuit says. “The Carvalhos get together regularly, attending family gatherings, dinners, holidays, school functions, sports activities and special events, and all family members deeply love and rely upon one another. Manny was a huge part of every aspect of the Carvalho family, and his loss is immeasurable.”
Following extensive interviews with the adults and minors present at the Camp Honokāia gun range, Hawai‘i Police Department detectives concluded an unsupervised male minor picked up a loaded firearm and as he placed it back down, it discharged, accidentally shooting Manny. An autopsy found the 11-year-old Hilo boy died as a result of that single gunshot wound.