New York courts recognize that someone who voluntarily participates in an athletic activity generally consents to the commonly appreciated risks inherent in the sport. However, that does not mean that a risk out of the ordinary expectations is subsumed by this assumption of the risk.
In Philippou v. Baldwin Union Free School District, the plaintiff-student was injured during a wrestling match when he was placed in a headlock by an opponent who then tripped on mats that had separated. The plaintiff and his opponent had been wrestling on two mats that were held together with tape. During the match, the tape came loose and the two mats separated, causing the plaintiff to injure his arm on the hardwood floor. The plaintiff sued the school district, who moved for summary judgment. The lower court denied the motion and the school appealed.
The Second Department upheld the lower court’s decision, finding that assumption of risk associated with athletic activities applies only to those conditions that are open and obvious. In this matter, the school failed to show that the improperly secured mats did not unreasonably increase the risk of injury inherent in the sport of wrestling.
Special thanks to Georgia Stagias for her contribution.
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