Granite Gorge

The owner of the summer camp that was forced to shut down by the state last year over safety issues will not have to pay a refund to a mother of four who pulled his children out of the camp, and the mother will not have to pay Baybutt $10,000 for defamation for her public complaints about the camp.

Damien Fisher/Union Leader Correspondent

ROXBURY — The owner of the now defunct Granite Gorge summer camp won’t have to pay a $2,100 refund to an irate mother, and the mother won’t have to pay $10,000 for allegedly defaming the camp’s owner, according to a ruling issued this week.

Judge James Gleason ruled after a hearing in the 8th Circuit Court in Keene this week that Granite Gorge LLC, owned by Fred Baybutt, does not have to pay Nicole Hutchins of Nelson, mother of four, the $2,100 she was seeking.

Hutchins filed the small claims lawsuit last year after she paid $2,800 for the full summer program for her children. She pulled them out of the program after the first week because of unsafe conditions, she said at the time. Hutchins declined to comment further on Friday.

Gleason ruled that the camp’s refund policy was in effect at the time Hutchins took her children out of the camp. The cancellation policy states that Granite Gorge will not pay out any refunds for cancellations that occur less than four weeks from the start of the camp.

When Hutchins filed the lawsuit, Baybutt responded by filing a counterclaim seeking $10,000 for defamation. Baybutt claimed Hutchins hurt his business when she publicly complained about the conditions at the camp. Gleason ruled against Baybutt in the defamation case.

“The Court finds that the defamation claims of (Baybutt) must fail for lack of credible proof,” Gleason wrote.

Contacted by phone on Friday, Baybutt refused to answer questions but repeated a prepared statement that his business is ready to offer a safe and fun product to the general public.

According to a letter to Baybutt on file with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, which oversees summer camp licensing, there were various problems found at the camp during a July 3 inspection, including the fact that many of the camp’s counselors had not gone through background checks.

Throughout the summer, DES received complaints about the camp, according to the letter. Despite conversations with Baybutt about fixing the problems, complaints kept coming in, according to the letter.

“On July 27, 2018, DES received a complaint about the conditions at Granite Gorge camp. The complainant asserted that a group of children were taken to the river by two counselors, under the age of 18, to engage in water activities,” the letter states. “The complainant was also concerned for the health and safety of the children at Granite Gorge camp asserting that there’s a bee’s nest at the camp that had not been removed, and that there was an open well shaft at the camp, covered only by rotting boards.”

The state finally ordered the camp closed on July 30. Emily Jones, with DES, said Friday that Granite Gorge has not yet filed an application to have a summer camp for this coming season. Camps must file an application with DES 30 days before they plan to open, Jones said.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019