An Inherent Risk? NY Courts Continue to Grapple with Sports Liability.

In Charles v. Uniondale School District, the plaintiff, a high school lacrosse player was struck by a passed ball during a preseason lacrosse practice. Because it was preseason the plaintiff had not yet been provided with a helmet and facemask.

In New York, an individual who engages in a sport or recreational activity consents to commonly appreciated risks that are inherent in and arise out of the general nature of the sport and naturally flow from participation in that sport.  What this means is that participants may be barred from suit if the injuries are the reasonably foreseeable consequences of participation.

In light of the above case law, the defendant moved for summary judgment. The Supreme Court, Nassau County, denied the defendant’s motion.  The Court held that, although being struck with a passed ball is a known risk inherent in the sport of lacrosse, there was a question of fact as to whether the defendant increased the risk of harm by failing to provide the plaintiff with head and face protection during the practice. The Appellate Division Second Department has now affirmed the trial court’s decision.  The bottom line is that in sport’s liability cases, there is no “slam dunk” when it comes to avoiding liability.

Special thanks to Ed Lomema for his contributions to this post.  For more information, please contact Bob Cosgrove at rcosgrove@wcmlaw.com.