Archive for July, 2015

Hard Lesson – Defendant Riding School Not Liable for Child Bucked from Horse (NY)

July 8, 2015

Quintanilla v. Thomas School of Horsemanship, Inc. (New York)

A minor child was thrown from a horse while taking an intermediate horse riding lesson, and her mother filed a lawsuit against the horse riding facility.  The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that the claim was barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk.  The trial court denied the motion, but the decision was reversed the the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

Prior to the child’s participation in the riding lesson, her parents signed a “Camp and Riding Instruction Agreement and Liability Release,” which warned that the facility’s horses could react if they were frightened or provoked.  During the child’s lesson, several horses came in close proximity to one another, and one of the horses kicked a wooden fence or gate, causing the child’s horse to rear up and throw the child off.  The Court explained that “[t]he risks of falling from a horse or a horse acting in an unintended manner are risks inherent in the sport of horseback riding.”  As such, the defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Unwanted Souvenir – Woman Struck by Foul Ball During MLB Batting Practice; Claim Barred (WA)

July 7, 2015

Reed-Jennings v. Baseball Club of Seattle, L.P. (Washington)
(unreported decision)

The plaintiff was seriously injured while attending a Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball game.  She was struck by a foul ball hit into the stands during batting practice.  Plaintiff filed a negligence based lawsuit against the team, but the trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the team did not breach its limited duty of care to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the assumption of risk doctrine.  Plaintiff appealed.
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Blanked Out – Injured Motocross Rider’s Claims Barred By Assumption of Risk (CA)

July 6, 2015

Storer v. E Street MX, Inc. (California)
(not a published opinion)

The plaintiff was injured while riding his motorcycle on a motocross track operated by the defendants.  After completing two or three laps on the track, the plaintiff “blanked out” and did not recall the incident.  He claimed something hit him, but he did not know what it was.  He filed an action against the defendants for negligence and premises liability.  The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment based upon both primary assumption of risk and the waiver and release document that the plaintiff signed prior to his participation in the motocross activities, and plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint shortly thereafter.

Plaintiff sough to add a new cause of for products liability and also sought to add additional negligence claims relating to defective design, construction, and maintenance of the racetrack, along with a failure to warn him of those defects.   The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion, ruling that the proposed amendment was “prejudicially late” and that it sought to add a “patently frivolous” cause of action for products liability.  Plaintiff had also requested delaying the defendants motion, but the court denied the request.  Thereafter, the trial court granted the defendants’ motion, and the plaintiff appealed. (more…)

Wild Ride – Paraplegic Injured on Roller Coaster Loses Jury Verdict (CA)

July 2, 2015

Rogers v. Magic Mountain, LLC (California)

Plaintiff was involved in an accident in 1996, which caused him to suffer from paraplegia and related medical complications.  In 2010, he rode the X2 “4th Dimension” roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain, an amusement park in Valencia, California.  While on the ride, plaintiff suffered a fracture to his right femur.  Plaintiff did not feel the injury as a result of his paraplegia.  A few days later, his right leg was amputated after blood clotting blocked the flow of blood to his leg.  Plaintiff sued the amusement park and the ride manufacturer, alleging premises liability, general negligence and products liability.

The amusement park filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied by the trial court.  The case continued, and a ten day jury trial ensued.  After trial, the jury issued a special verdict, finding that the amusement park was negligent, but that its negligence was not a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff.  As to the ride manufacturer, the jury found that (1) the ride did not have potential risks that were known at the time of their design, manufacture and sale that would support a failure to warn claim, and (2) the design of the ride was a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff, but that the risks of the ride did not outweigh the benefits of the design.  Therefore, the jury found that neither defendant had legal responsibility for the harm caused to the plaintiff.

Plaintiff appealed the decision contending that the special verdict was defective and the evidence was insufficient to support the special verdict.  However, the Court of Appeal disagreed and affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendants.  The Court noted that the plaintiff had not objected to the special verdict or any of its stipulated changes.  Regardless, the Court did not find any inconsistency, ambiguity, or unresolved issue in the special verdict.  Plaintiff complained that the jury had improperly allocated 100% fault to the plaintiff without first finding that the plaintiff was negligent.  However, the Court explained that the specific allocation of fault to the plaintiff was merely an “irregularity,” and not an “inconsistency.”  The jury had already determined that neither defendant’s was responsible (the park’s negligence did not cause the harm and the risk of the manufacturer’s design did not outweigh its benefits).  As a result, the Court noted that “it [did] not matter whether plaintiff was negligent or not — he [could not] recover from defendants.”  According to the Court, “the issues of negligence and causation were properly presented to the jury in the special verdict form.”  The Court was also convinced that “there was ample evidence from which the jury could properly conclude that [manufacturer] was unaware of potential risks at the time the X2 vehicles were designed.”