Plaintiff Skates Past Assumption of Risk Defense (NY)

Most people understand that when you participate in sports, you might get hurt.  So in New York, the general law is that “a voluntarily participant in a recreational sporting event has no legal recourse for injuries caused by an occurrence or condition that was a known, apparent, or reasonably foreseeable consequence of such participation.”

But the U.S. District Court for the Northern District recently issued a questionable decision in connection with a roller skating accident.  In Diaz v. High Rollers Recreational Center, Inc., the plaintiff, while skating, noticed a young man with long hair “skating aggressively and at a higher rate of speed than the other skaters.”  The man skated fast while cutting in and out of the path of other skaters, but his conduct was not reported to High Rollers’ staff.  Eventually, this unidentified skater struck plaintiff from behind, causing her to fall and injure her ankle.

Plaintiff sued High Rollers, claiming that High Rollers failed to properly supervise the skaters and allowed reckless skating.  High Rollers argued that plaintiff assumed the risk of skating, and that in any event it provided adequate supervision and was not the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries.

The judge found that the skater’s conduct was obvious to all at the skating rink, including High Rollers employees, and that a sudden collision is the type of risk typically assumed by skating participants.  But the court found that a skater does not assume the risk of another skater’s reckless conduct and that the collision was not sudden but a foreseeable occurrence that could have been avoided with better supervision.  Whether the defendant’s supervision was negligent was found to be an issue of fact to be determined by the jury.

This type of incident strikes us as a risk typically assumed by skating participants and it seems that the court placed too great an emphasis on the “sudden” nature of the incident.  We will continue to monitor this case to see if there is an appeal and if the outcome is any different.

Thanks to Steve Kaye for his contribution to this post.   If you would like more information, please write to Mike Bono.