NY Court Rules Softball Player Safe — For Now

In Viola v Carmel Cent. School Dist., a high school softball player was injured while sliding into second base during a game at the defendant school.  Plaintiff claimed that her injury was caused by the improper installation of the base, as the base’s pointed corner, as opposed to a side of the base, was facing first base. She was injured when her left foot hit the point of the base when sliding. The bases had been installed by the school district’s grounds crew.  The trial court denied summary judgment to the school district.

The Second Department affirmed the trial court’s decision.  While an injury from sliding is typically an assumed risk in the sport, the school district failed to show that (1) the base was properly positioned, (2) that plaintiff was aware of the improper base positioning, or (3) that it was an open and obvious condition. Further, since the school district’s witnesses testified that an improperly positioned base could be a hazard for sliding runners and that a game should be stopped to correct such a condition, the district would also have to establish that the improperly positioned base would not have unreasonably increase the risk of injury.

While seemingly at odds with prior law on the assumption of risk doctrine, Viola fits within that narrow category where a participant is found not to assume the risk of faulty equipment.

Thanks to Jung Lee for his contribution to this post.  If you would like more information, please write to mbono@wmclaw.com