Taking One for the Team – Minor Cheerleader Assumed the Risk of Practicing with an Injured Teammate (NY)

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Photo by Adam Burke. No changes made.

Kurt T. Jurgensen, as Parent and Natural Guardian of Jayna R. Jurgensen (New York)

A minor student was injured while working with her teammates on a choreographed stunt that involved two cheerleaders (the “bases”) throwing the student into the air and then catching her.  The stunt was completed successfully on the first attempt on the day of the incident, but on the second attempt, the student felt plaintiff in her knee when her teammates threw her up in the air.  The student suffered a ligament injury to her knee, and she alleged that the injury occurred because one of her teammates was practicing that day with a sprained ankle, which caused her to hold the student’s foot for too long before throwing her in the air.  The student’s father filed a lawsuit on the student’s behalf, alleging that the school district was negligent in allowing the injured teammate to participate in the practice.  The defendant moved for summary judgment, contending that the action was barred by the doctrine of assumption of risk.  The Supreme Court of New York denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York reversed the decision.  The Court concluded that the plaintiff’s daughter knew that her teammate was injured, and that the teammate had not been cleared to practice.  Additionally, the plaintiff’s daughter had performed the stunt with the same teammate earlier on the day in question, and the daughter said she had noticed the based was “a little more shaky” than usual.  Despite this knowledge, the daughter testified that she “didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”  The Court asserted that the daughter practicing with a teammate knowing the teammate was injured was analogous to a cheerleader practicing without a mat or an athlete playing on a field that is in less than perfect condition.  Therefore, the Court held that the action was barred by the doctrine of assumption of risk.

(Photo by Adam Burke.  No changes made.)

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