There is an interesting potential torts case out of Arizona where two people died and 19 people were injured as part of a “sweatbox” ceremony reportedly led by James Arthur Ray, author of the best-selling book “Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want.”
The dead participants were described as “a middle-aged man and woman.” Such ceremonies present an obvious risk to people who may not be able to deal with the physical stress of the high temperatures in a sweat hut. The dome is located in Angel Valley Resort which bills itself as “a place to relax and heal … where powerful earth energies are present and active.” The resort claims to have “twenty marked vortexes and angel sites to experience connection with Earth and spirit, deep relaxation, and balancing,” including “two labyrinths and an Angel Wheel for going inward, finding answers and getting insights.”
Ray boasts that he appears regularly on CNN’s “Larry King Live” and the “Oprah Winfrey Show” in spreading his message of spiritual healing. He tells followers that “[y]our gut instincts tell you life is not really meant to be a struggle, yet you’ve been brainwashed to think that only sweat and hard work will get you where you want to be. Here’s a better way…” That way appears to be in a sweat hut for some.
Notably, the resort itself holds tax-exemption as a religious organization with the IRS, but that will not protect it from lawsuit. Presumably, this new age religion has some old-age waiver forms. However, there remains some serious questions of how so many people could fall ill in only two hours in a sweat lodge without gross negligence. The resort promises that its activities “can assist in making profound changes in your life.” For at least two people, that was undeniably true and I expect many will find that their own “path” leads to the door of a personal injury lawyer.
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