Blades of Gory – Hockey Locker Room Injury Inherent in the Sport (NY)

by

Litz v. Clinton Central School District (New York)

Plaintiff sustained an injury in the locker room following a high school hockey practice when a teammate still wearing skates stepped backward on the plaintiff’s bare foot.  Plaintiff filed an action against several defendants, including the school district, the head coach, and the assistant coach.  The school defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that the plaintiff had assumed the risks associated with the sport of hockey, and that the defendant did not owe a duty to protect the plaintiff from those risks.  The New York Supreme Court entered summary judgment for the defendants and dismissed the complaint, and plaintiff appealed.  

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York affirmed the ruling, finding that the defendants “met their burden of establishing that the risk of being injured by a skate blade is ‘inherent in the sport’ of hockey and that the plaintiff was aware of, appreciated the nature of, and voluntarily assumed that risk.”  The court looked at the experience and knowledge of the plaintiff, noting that he had been on the high school team for three years and had played organized hockey for over a decade.  The plaintiff acknowledged the use of skates with sharp edges was part of the sport, and he testified he was aware of the need to be careful around people wearing hockey skates and that he was always worried of being stepped on or cut by a skate.  Plaintiff further acknowledged that players walked on skates after practice and after games.

The Court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the “risk of injury was unreasonably increased by the layout of the locker room.”  The Court explained that while the condition of the locker room was “not ideal,” it was “open and obvious, and any risks were readily appreciable.”  In conclusion, the Court said it was a “luckless accident” arising from his voluntary participation in a school-sponsored athletic activity.

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