Archive for July, 2008

Insurance Company “Cutz” Barbershop’s Defense

July 6, 2008

Scottsdale Insurance Company v. Cutz, LLC (Florida)
(Insurer Had No Duty to Defend Lessor of Premises in Negligent Security Lawsuit.)

In September 2003, two men were shot to death at a Cutz, LLC (Cutz) barbershop. Personal representatives of the deceased men brought suit against Cutz (the lessee) and G&G Laboratories (the lessor of the premises), seeking damages for wrongful death and negligence based upon a failure to provide security at the barbershop. Cutz was the named insured under an insurance policy issued by Scottsdale Insurance Company (Scottsdale). Both Cutz and G&G Laboratories (G&G) tendered their defense and requested indemnity from Scottsdale. Scottsdale sought a declaration from the Court that it was not responsible for G&G.

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Injured Shot Putter Chances in Court Are Shot

July 6, 2008

Gerry v. Commack Union Free School District (New York)
(Injured High School Shot Putter’s Assumed Risk of Being Hit by Shot.)

The plaintiff, a high school student-athlete shot putter, was injured when he was hit with a shot thrown by the defendant during a track meet. As a member of the school’s track team, plaintiff had participated in 10 to 15 similar track meets, and he had thrown the shot himself between 100 and 200 times. The trial court granted the defendant school district’s motion, dismissing the case, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the Court explained that “[i]n assessing whether a defendant has violated a duty of care in the context of an injury sustained during a sport or game, [it] must [be] determine[d] whether the defendant created a unique condition ‘over and above the usual dangers that are inherent in the sport’.” The Court concluded that there was “no evidence in the record that any conduct on the part of the defendants created a unique condition over and above the usual dangers associated with the sport of shot put.” Therefore, the Court affirmed the ruling. The plaintiff attempted to offer the declaration of an expert witness on appeal, but the Court stated that the plaintiff had unreasonably delayed in identifying the expert witness.

NOTE: Technically a determination of the inherent risks in an activity should not inolve the analysis of a participant’s subjective experience. The inherent risks are the inherent risks regardless of anyone’s particular experience or knowledge. Nonetheless, whenever evidence of extensive experience is available, it is generally useful to include from a defendant perspective as it may help balance the equities and alleviate any sympathy facotrs that may be asserted. It would have been interesting to see how the court would have dealt with the expert witness testimony if it had been timely and admissible. It has always been a point of contention, and there is not been total consensus, in terms of whether or not expert witnesses should be allowed to offer opinions to the court as to what it or is not an inherent risk in an activity.

Injured Baseball Fan Cries Foul

July 6, 2008

Roberts v. Boys and Girls Republic (New York)
(Court Denies Recovery for Baseball Fan Struck by a Bat Accidentally Thrown by Batter in an Off-Field, On-Deck Circle.)

The plaintiff, was an observer at a baseball game as was struck by a bat accidentally thrown from the on-deck circle located just off of the playing field. The trial court granted the defendant baseball association’s motion, dismissing the case based upon the doctrine of assumption of the risk. The plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the Court affirmed the decision and noted that the plaintiff could not recover “because plaintiff concededly observed batting equipment and players swinging bats in the area where the accident occurred.”

NOTE: This decision is in line with the majority position that spectators at a baseball game assume the risk of balls and equipment flying into the stands from the field of play. There has been some minor erosion of this majority position in some jurisdictions (e.g., liability being established if a mascot was distracting the spectators during play), but the cases have been rather consistent in this area of the law.

Injured Slow-Pitch Softballer Strikes Out in Court

July 6, 2008

Craig v. Amateur Softball Association of America (Pennsylvania)
(Softball Player Struck in the Head by Softball During Game Assumed the Risk of Injury.)

Plaintiff was struck in the head by a softball while playing in a slow-pitch softball game. He was not wearing a helmet at the time and his injuries were serious injuries. The defendant softball league filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that it did not owe a duty of care to plaintiff to prevent the injury, and that even if such a duty existed, that plaintiff had assumed the risk of this injury by voluntarily choosing not to wear a helmet. In granting defendant’s motion, the trial court ruled that defendant owed no duty to prevent inherent risks of softball. Plaintiff appealed.

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Golf Course Backs Out of Liability to Injured Golfer

July 6, 2008

Parsons v. Arrowhead Golf (Indiana)
(Court Holds that Golf Course Owed No Duty to Prevent a Golfer’s Back Injury Suffered When He Stepped Out of Golf Cart.)

The defendant managed an 18-hole golf course where the plaintiff was playing golf. The plaintiff stepped off of a golf cart, landed “straight-legged” and immediately experienced lower back pain. The plaintiff stated that the drop was four to twelve inches deep, and that he had not noticed this irregularity on the grounds during his past years of golfing experience on this course. Plaintiff had golfed here once per week for over two years. The manager of the course had regularly inspected the grounds for dangerous conditions and moved walking paths as necessary to ensure that they did not become worn out. In this particular instance, the manager had placed stone where the plaintiff was injured. Plaintiff alleged that the defendant had failed to take reasonable safety measures by negligently maintaining the premises and failing to warn him about the danger. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant based on assumption of the risk, and the plaintiff appealed.

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ATV Co-Participant Collision Case Stays On Course

July 6, 2008

Allred v. Broekhuis (Michigan-UNPUBLISHED)
(Court Denies Co-Participant’s Demurrer to Claim by Injure Co-Participant Based on the “Recreational Activities Doctrine.”)

In 2005, the plaintiff was riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) eastward on a path designated for use by off-road vehicles. Simultaneously, the defendant was riding an ATV westward on the same course. When passing each other, defendant’s ATV crossed onto the eastbound side of the course and struck the plaintiff. Defendant moved for a judgment on the pleadings based on Michigan’s “recreational activities doctrine” (RAD). Under the RAD, co-participants in recreational activities owe a minimum standard of care not to act recklessly towards other participants. However, plaintiff argued that the RAD did not apply under the circumstances, and that Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Code should control.

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Injured High School Track Athlete Hurdles Summary Judgment

July 6, 2008

Morales v. Beacon City School District (New York)
(Inexperienced High School Track Athlete Injured During Practice After Coach Directed Him to Run Hurdles With Minimal Instruction; Court Denied School’s Summary Judgment Due to Triable Issue of Fact Regarding Increased Risks.)

The plaintiff was a high school track athlete who had minimal experience running hurdles. He claimed that the coach told him to run hurdles, but failed to give him adequate instruction, resulting in his personal injury. Additionally, the athlete contended the hurdle he fell over was not set up properly because the horizontal bar was uneven. The defendant school moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff had assumed the inherent risks of injury by participating in this sports activity. The court denied the motion and the school appealed

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Scuba Diving School Stays Above Water

July 6, 2008

Booth v. Bowen (U.S. Virgin Islands-UNPUBLISHED)
(Federal Court Enforces Waiver in Favor of Scuba Diving School; Denied Claims of Heirs Suing on Behalf of Novice Scuba Diver Who Died While Completing the School’s Introductory Course.)

This case involved an action brought by the heirs of a deceased scuba diver. The decedent participated in a novice diving course in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The deceased had no diving experience. Before participating, he signed a “Questionnaire” which was titled “Liability Release and Assumption of Risk Agreement.” The school argued that the language of the agreement relieved them from negligence liability. The plaintiff-heirs argued that the waiver should be unenforceable on public policy grounds because the agreement improperly barred the claims of heirs and family member of the deceased. The plaintiffs contested the fact that the agreement signed by the decedent precluded an undetermined class of individuals (heirs and family members) from filing suit.

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