Courts generally hold that sports participants assume the risks inherent in the games they play. Getting struck by a baseball while in the batter’s box or injured when tackled in a football game are simply part of the game. A recent decision by a New York appellate court also suggests that athletes need to consider the potential risks of a particular playing field’s conditions, especially when they have played there previously.
In Austion v. Parkchester S. Condo. Inc., the plaintiff injured himself when he slipped on an outdoor basketball court covered in sand. Despite what many would consider a dangerous and unusual condition, the Court held that the Plaintiff was barred from recovery.
The Court noted that the sand on the basketball court was the result of a naturally occurring condition. That, coupled with the fact that the Plaintiff had seen the sand on the court before and presumably knew that it was local custom to sweep it away meant that the Plaintiff assumed the risk inherent in playing basketball on that bizarre court.
Property owners should not read this decision as license to neglect maintenance of their facilities. The Court was careful to note that the Plaintiff had observed the dangerous conditions before. It is one thing when an athlete knows about a risk and assumes it, and it would have likely been a different story if a newcomer to the court took a spill.