A recent NY case dealt with whether High School football players assume the risk of getting injured on a steel plate on the sidelines. In September 2010, Andrew Deserto, Jr., a high school student in Goshen Central School District, allegedly was injured while playing in a varsity football game at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, located in Hyde Park Central School District. Mr. Deserto allegedly was tackled by two players from the opposing team and forced out of bounds, causing him to hit his head on a steel plate covering a pole vault pit several feet from the football field sideline.
As a result of the accident, Mr. Deserto filed a lawsuit in Orange County Supreme Court against Goshen Central School Districk and Hyde Park Central School District, claiming the placement of the steel plate in the vicinity of the playing field unreasonably increased the risk of injury to the players.
Both school districts moved for summary judgment, arguing that the lawsuit should be dismissed because it was barred by the legal doctrine known as the primary assumption of the risk.
The Supreme Court did not agree that the case should be dismissed without a jury ruling on whether the placement of the steel plate in the vicinity of the playing field unreasonably increased the risk of injury to the football players.
The Supreme Court’s decision was appealed, and the Appellate Division focused on whether the risk at issue was a “commonly appreciated risk.” The Court’s decision held that “pursuant to the doctrine of primary assumption of risk, a voluntary participant in a sporting or recreational activity consents to those commonly appreciated risks which are inherent in and arise out of the nature of the sport generally and flow from such participation.”
Further, participants in sporting events are “not deemed to have assumed the risks of reckless or intentional conduct, or concealed or unreasonably increased risks.” In line with these principles, the Court ruled that “[a]n educational institution organizing a team sporting activity must exercise ordinary reasonable care to protect student athletes voluntarily participating in organized athletics from unassumed, concealed, or enhanced risks.”
Ultimately, the Appellate Division decided that the Supreme Court’s decision was correct in determining that the defendants were not entitled to summary judgment because they failed to eliminate a triable issue of fact as to whether the placement of the steel plate in the vicinity of the playing field unreasonably increased the risk of injury to the participants.
Thanks to George Parpas for his contribution to this post and please write to Mike Bono for more information.