Hockey Player Assumed Risk of Injury in Fight (NY)

Rodney Dangerfield once joked:  “I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.”  But unlike Rodney, law and common sense received plenty of respect in Falcaro v American Skating Ctrs., LLC (2018 NY Slip Op 08469).

There, a hockey player was injured during an in-game fight during his amatuer league game, after a referee had pulled him off the pile.  In his lawsuit against the arena and others, the plaintiff claimed it was customary for fights to stop when a referee became involved.  Nevertheless, he kept on fighting and was injured.

Recognizing that a sports participant “consents to those commonly appreciated risks which are inherent in and arise out of the nature of the sport and generally flow from such participation,” the court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.  According to the court, the risk of involving oneself in an ongoing fight were inherent in the risks of ice hockey and “perfectly obvious.”

The trial court actually denied the defendants’ summary judgment motion, but on appeal, the 2nd Dept. reversed, citing the primary assumption of risk doctrine.  So instead of a verdict in his favor, the plaintiff will have to settle for a 5-minute major.  Thanks to Mike Gauvin for his contribution to this post.  Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.