Archive for the ‘Spectator’ Category

Free of Charge – City Immune Under Statute From Premises Liability Claim by Injured Youth Football Spectator (ID)

November 10, 2015

Hayes v, City of Plummer (Idaho)

The plaintiff was a spectator attending a youth tackle football game at a park owned by the defendant City of Plummer.  He was seriously injured after stumbling on uneven ground hidden by grass, and he filed a premises liability claim against the defendant for his injuries.  The defendant then filed a motion for summary judgment based on Idaho’s Recreational Use Statute.  The trial court granted the City’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal. the Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed the trial court’s decision.  Under the Idaho Recreational Use Statute, “[a] ‘landowner’ who provides property for public recreational use is afforded a limitation of liability and ‘owes no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry by others for recreational purposes, or to give any warning of a dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity on such premises to persons entering for such purposes.'”  This liability limitation applies when the property is offered “without charge.”  The plaintiff asserted that the school district’s payment of utilities and other expenses related to the park for the benefit of the defendant should be considered a “charge” such that the liability immunity did not apply.  However, the Court disagreed, explaining:

“The intent and purpose of Idaho’s Recreational Use Statute is to provide recreational access at no cost to the general public. I.C. § 36–1604(a) . In this case, the City and the School District have done that by allocating resources in order to provide and maintain the Park for all to enjoy. Because the City did not charge or receive compensation from [plaintiff] or the public for their use and enjoyment of the land, Idaho Code section 36–1604  provides a limitation on liability for [plaintiff’s] injuries. The district court properly granted summary judgment.”

Worst Seat in the House – Triable Issue as to Whether Park Had Notice of Dangerous Bleachers (AL)

August 18, 2015

Shirley v. Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority (Alabama)

Plaintiff was sitting on bleachers at Munny Sokol Park in Alabama watching a youth football game.  Certain welds on the bleachers broke, causing plaintiff to fall and suffer personal injury.  Plaintiff filed a complaint against the parks and recreation authority that owned the property, alleging negligence and wantonness.  Plaintiff later amended her complaint to assert a claim under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine against several fictitiously named defendants.  The property owner filed a motion for summary judgment arguing it was entitled to immunity under Alabama’s recreational use statute.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court improperly entered summary judgment because there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the park was being used for commercial purposes and whether the property owner had “actual knowledge or an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily harm” (both exceptions to the statutory immunity).

The Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama noted that plaintiff presented no evidence indicating that the use of the park was commercial in nature.  However, the Court found that the plaintiff did present evidence that the property owner had actual knowledge regarding the unreasonably dangerous condition of the bleachers and that it failed to guard or warn against the consequences.  The evidence established that an employee of the property owner arrived at the scene of the incident and commented, “I told them earlier to put a cone or a sign on this bleacher until we could get somebody out here to repair it.”  Another witness also confirmed that the the condition of the bleachers was known and should have been “coned off.”  The property owner disputed the facts, but the Court noted that it was required to review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant.  Therefore, the Court reversed the decision and remanded the trial for further proceedings.

Imperfect Storm – Hockey Arena Snow Remover Not Liable for Slip and Fall Injury During Storm (NY)

August 17, 2015

Harvey v. LAZ Parking Ltd. (New York)

A hockey fan slipped and fell on an icy pedestrian area while exiting a hockey arena.  He filed a lawsuit against the city and its snow removal contractor.  The fan’s wife also filed a claim for loss of consortium.  The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court decision, holding that the defendants were not liable pursuant to the “storm in progress rule.”  According to the rule, “[a] landowner has no duty to remedy a dangerous condition resulting from a storm while the storm is in progress and has a reasonable amount of time after the storm has ended to take corrective action.”  The defendants relied on plaintiffs’ own testimony that there was precipitation during and after the game, and they also relied on weather data and climatological records establishing the timing of the precipitation.  The evidence was sufficient to demonstrate that the ice was formed by the ongoing weather conditions.  Once established, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff to produce  “admissible evidence that the ice that caused plaintiff’s slip and fall existed prior to the storm in progress, and that defendant[s] had actual or constructive notice of the hazard.”  The Court concluded that the plaintiff’s expert affidavit failed to meet that burden.

Crying Foul – Federal Litigation in California Seeks to Change Baseball’s “Limited Duty Rule” (CA)

July 15, 2015

Crying Foul – Federal Litigation in California Seeks to Change Baseball’s “Limited Duty Rule” (ESPN.com Article)

The sport of baseball has long felt the benefit of the “limited duty rule.”  The rule protects baseball teams and stadium operators from liability to spectators for injuries caused by balls and bats that fly into the seats.  The rule generally requires the team or stadium operator to provide a sufficient number of protected seats for those spectators who want them, and to provide protection for all spectators located in the most dangerous parts of the stadium, notably the areas that pose the highest risk of injury from fouls balls, such as the seating directly behind home plate.

There have been numerous challenges to the rule over the years, and now we have a new one in California.  As described in the ESPN.com article here, an Oakland Athletics season-ticket holder has filed a federal court action seeking class-action status on behalf of all fans buying season tickets in unprotected areas of the ballpark.  The goal appears to be the installation of safety netting from foul pole to foul pole.

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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No Brakes – Village Not Responsible for Injuries to Woman Injured at the Bottom of Sledding Hill (NY)

June 24, 2015

Vannatta v. Village of Otisville (New York)

A woman was standing at the bottom of a hill in an area of village-owned park.  The area was not maintained by the village and was left in its natural state.  The hill had been used for sledding for approximately 50 years, and the woman had walked with her son to the hill to take him sledding.  As she was standing at the bottom of the hill, she was struck by someone coming down the hill.  She filed and action against the village claiming that it “failed to install and maintain proper signage or to employ personnel to prevent [or] safely restrict access to and use of the park and hill or to warn users, including pedestrians such as the Plaintiff, of dangers to such pedestrian users inherent in or incident to the use of the park and hill by others who may be using the park and hill for sleigh riding or similar recreational activities.”

The defendant moved for summary judgment under the New York General Obligations Law Section 9-103, which provides immunity “to private as well as government landowners against claims for ordinary negligence brought by members of the public who come on their property to engage in certain enumerated activities where the land is suitable for those activities.”  The trial court granted the motion and the plaintiff appealed.  On appeal, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court agreed that the statute applied and affirmed the trial court ruling, entering judgment for the defendant.

Nice Save – Hockey Spectator Take a Puck in the Head; Team and Arena Not Liable (CT)

May 12, 2015

 

Lukacko v. Connecticut Islanders, LLC (Connecticut)

Plaintiff and his wife were spectators at an American Hockey League (“AHL”) game at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  At some point during the hockey match, a puck left the ice surface, traveled over the tempered glass barrier surrounding the rink, and struck plaintiff, causing a head laceration, scarring and emotional and physical distress.  Plaintiff filed a complaint against the hockey team and the arena operator alleging numerous counts of negligent conduct.

In response. the defendants claimed that the arena had typical protections for fans and patrons of the hockey game, including “plexiglass walls above the dasher boards surrounding the rink and netting placed at either end of the rink, in the most dangerous sections of the Arena in accordance with the approved standards of the [AHL].”  Plaintiff was not sitting at either end of the rink or behind the goals.  The defendants asked the Superior Court to adopt the “limited duty rule” (also referred to as the “baseball rule”), which is different from the general negligence standard.  Under the “limited duty rule,” once the defendant facility “has provided adequately screened seats for all those desiring them, the [facility] owner has fulfilled his duty of care as a matter of law.”  The Court explained that “[t]he limited duty rule holds that the stadium owner/operator is only responsible for screening the spectator seats in the most dangerous section of the field (in baseball, the area behind home plate).”

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And the Runner is Out – Claim By Spectator at a Little League Game Barred by Recreational Use Statute (RI)

May 11, 2015

Carlson v. Town of South Kingston (Rhode Island)

The plaintiff was attending her son’s little league game being played at a park and field owned and maintained by the defendant town.  As she was walking from a batting cage area over to a concession stand to meet her son, she stepped in a “divot” and broke her leg.  Testimony established that the “divot” was created by kids waiting to get into the batting cages when they would dig their cleats into the ground.  Plaintiff filed an action against the town, alleging the town negligently maintained the premises.  The town moved for summary judgment based on Rhode Island’s Recreational Use Statute (“RUS”).  Plaintiff objected to the motion citing two exceptions to the RUS and alleging: (1) the town had “willfully or maliciously failed to guard or warn against a dangerous condition on the land,” and (2) the town had charged plaintiff for her access to the park.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

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Pit Road Penalty – Release Agreements Enforceable But Not to Bar Negligent Bleacher Maintenance Claim (NY)

May 4, 2015

Stevens v. Payne (NewYork)
(trial court opinion)

The plaintiff was injured while watching his daughter compete as a race care driver at a racetrack in New York.  Plaintiff suffered a heart attack and fell off of bleachers landing six feet below onto the ground, resulting in permanent paralysis of his legs.  He then sued the racetrack (Skyline Raceway) and the sprint car sanctioning entity (Capital Region Sprintcar Agency [“CRSA”]), alleging there was a dangerous condition on the bleachers because they lack side railing.  CRSA file a motion for summary judgment on tow grounds: (1) it did not owe a duty to plaintiff for the condition of the bleachers because it neither owned nor controlled them; and (2) the plaintiff’s cause of action was barred by the two waiver and release agreements signed by the plaintiff (one signed for the CRSA in connection with the race car entry, and one signed for Skyline at the event on the day of the incident).

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The Art of Recreation – University Not Permitted to Assert Recreational Use Statute Protection Against Spectator Claim (TX)

April 21, 2015

University of Texas at Arlington v. Sandra Williams (Texas)

The plaintiff and her husband attended their daughter’s soccer game played at the football stadium at the University of Texas at Arlington.  She leaned against a gate that separated the stands from the playing field, and the gate unexpectedly opened, causing her to fall five feel to the artificial turf below.  Plaintiff injured a rib and her left arm and sued the University for premises liability, alleging negligence and gross negligence.  As part of its responsive pleadings, the University filed a motion to dismiss claiming (among other things) liability protection under the Texas recreational use statute.

Texas’ recreational use statute (like many similar statutes in other jurisdictions) protects landowners who open property for recreational purposes, limiting their liability to the recreational user.  In such cases, the burden of proof is elevated, requiring either gross negligence or an intent to injure.  Ultimately, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed the decision of both the trial court and the court of appeals and determined that a spectator at a competitive sports event is not “recreation” under the statute such that the liability protection did not apply.