Archive for the ‘Struck By Object’ Category

Black and Blue Light Special – Sporting Goods Store Not Liable for Injury Caused by Bicycle Riding Patron (LA)

May 15, 2015

Orr v. Academy Louisiana Co, LLC (Louisiana)

Plaintiff and her daughter entered an Academy Sports and Outdoor Store in Alexandria, Louisiana to shop for shoes.  While plaintiff was attempting to help her child try on a pair of shoes, she was struck by an adult male who was riding a young girl’s bicycle.  The bicycle rider initially offered assistance to the injured plaintiff, but when she refused, he fled the scene.  After plaintiff reported the incident to the store, they located the bicycle, but could no the man involved.

Plaintiff sued the store and its insurance company, and her husband joined the litigation with a loss of consortium claim.  The defendants denied liability, asserted the fault the unknown bicycle rider, and argued comparative fault on the part of plaintiff.  After a trial on the merits, the trial court found that the store was one hundred percent at fault for the plaintiff’s accident, awarding plaintiff its jurisdictional limit of $50,000 in damages.  Defendant appealed, alleging the trial court erred: (1) in finding that plaintiff had met her burden of proof; (2) in finding that the store was negligent when the incident could not have been reasonably anticipated; and (3) in failing to assign fault on the unknown customer/tortfeasor.

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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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Stuck Between a Dumbbell and a Hard Place – Fitness Club Members Claims RE Smashed Finger Dismissed (TX)

May 12, 2015

 

Grijalva v. Bally Total Fitness (Texas)

Plaintiff had been a member of defendant’s health and fitness club for many years.  When he joined, plaintiff signed a detailed Membership Application, which included waiver and release and assumption of risk language.  About a year after he joined, plaintiff was injured while lifting weights.  His finger was caught between his own weights and a set of weights that was left on the floor by another member, causing disfigurement and loss of use.  Plaintiff sued the defendant club for premises liability, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of common law warranty, fraudulent inducement, and breach of contract.  In particular, plaintiff alleged that there were “several weights or dumbbells left around the various benches nearby [the bench where he was lifting weights] that were not returned to their regular and specific rack locations.”  A set of those weights left by another member caused plaintiff’s injury.  The intentional conduct claim was based on plaintiff’s allegation that the defendant failed to assist him “in mitigating the extent of his injuries to his finger” by “failing to summon medical assistance immediately.”

Defendant moved for summary judgment, contending (1) plaintiff had waived his right to pursue his negligence claims by executing the waiver and release provisions of the Membership Application, and (2) plaintiff could not provide evidence of all essential elements of his remaining claims.  Initially, plaintiff asserted that he did not sign a waiver and release in the Membership Agreement (he claimed that while he signed the second page of the agreement, the waiver and release provision is on the third page, which he did not sign), that he did not “speak and write English properly,” and that the club did not discuss the waiver and release with him.  He also argued that the waiver and release in the Membership Application did not meet Texas’ “fair notice requirement” because it was not conspicuous.  The trial court granted the club’s motion, dismissing plaintiff’s claims, and plaintiff appealed.

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Blown Away – Recreational Immunity Statute Applied to Incident Involving Charity Hot Air Balloon Ride (WI)

April 30, 2015

Roberts v. T.H.E. Insurance Company (Wisconsin)
(final publication pending decision)

The plaintiff attended a charity event and was waiting in line to participate in a hot air balloon ride.  A gust of wind snapped a tether holding the balloon, sending the balloon and basket sliding across the land, where it crashed into the plaintiff and knocked her down.  The injured plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the balloon ride operator and its insurer.  The defendants filed for summary judgment based upon Wisconsin’s recreational immunity statute, and the trial court granted the motion.  The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin affirmed the decision.  The plaintiff argued that the recreational immunity statute should not apply because the alleged negligent acts were not directed at the condition of the land itself and “there was nothing about the land that caused [plaintiff’s] injuries.”  The Court explained that the purpose of the statute was “to achieve the goal of encouraging property owners to open their lands to public recreation by limiting the liability of property owners,” and the Court further noted that the statute should be construed liberally in favor of property owners.

The statute applies to anyone that “own, leases, or occupies property” and it applies to “recreational activity” as detailed in the statute.  The plaintiff did not contest that the defendant occupied the property or that the activity satisfied the definition of “recreational activity” under the statute.  However, plaintiff argued that the statute provided that the liability at issue needed to relate to the property itself.  The Court disagreed, referring to the plaintiff’s misinterpretation of the statute and caselaw she cited in opposition to the motion.

Out in the Cold – Ski Lift Ticket Release Agreement Contrary to Public Policy (OR)

April 27, 2015

Becker v. Hoodoo Ski Area (Oregon)

A skier was injured when she was struck by a moving chairlift.  She brought a negligence action against the ski area operator.  The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law based on a “Release Agreement” that occupied approximately one-half of the face of the lift ticket purchased by the skier on the day in question.  The skier denied having noticed or read the release agreement document.  The skier filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that the waiver and release document that she signed was procedurally and substantively unconscionable.  The trial court granted the defendant’s motion and denied the plaintiff’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, plaintiff renewed her argument that the waiver and release was unenforceable because it was contrary to public policy and was unconscionable.  The Court of Appeals of Oregon reversed the trial court and remanded the case to trial.  Relying on the Oregon Supreme Court decision in Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor (2014), the Court of Appeals held that the release agreement was unconscionable.  The Court discussed numerous factors that went into the analysis including the “superior bargaining strength” of the defendant, the release agreement being offered on a “take-it-or-leave-it basis,” and the lack of an “opportunity to negotiate for different terms or pay an additional fee for protection against defendant’s negligence.”  The Court further concluded that the “‘enforcement of the release would cause a harsh and inequitable result’ to befall the plaintiffs, and the Court noted that the “defendant’s business operation [was] sufficiently tied to the public interest as to require the performance of its private duties to patrons.”

A Racing Incident

September 28, 2012

Ketchum v. Mercer Raceway Park, LLC (Pennsylvania)(Not Published)
(A race team crew member was killed when a race car left the racing surface and struck a guard rail in front of the crew member; his estate sued the speedway for wrongful death.)

The incident occurred in 2007 during a race at the defendant’s speedway.  The decedent and a friend were volunteer members of a pit crew.  They were standing near a guard rail and catch fence barrier of the pit area watching a race when a race car moved across the racing surface and collided with the guard rail and catch fence.  The concrete footing of the fence was ripped from the ground, and a steel pole was separated from the footing, striking the decedent.

According to the evidence presented, sometime prior to the incident, the owner of the racetrack hired the track’s manager to improve the fencing around the track for safety reasons.  The manager designed and installed the barrier “on his own” without instruction, guidance, or formal education or training.  He was learning as he went along and utilized his “best guess” as to how far into the ground to place each pole.  The manager was aware that steel posts could be separated from the footing of a fence and pulled from the ground because he had seen it happen before.

Prior to their entry into the facility and participation on the pit crew, the decedent and his friend paid a pit entrance fee and signed a “Release and Waiver of Liability and Indemnity Agreement.”  They understood what they were signing and knew that crashes occurred and had seen cars collide with walls/guard rails.  They had participated as pit crew members at numerous prior events and had signed many prior waiver and release agreements.  The evidence also showed that the racetrack posted rules specific to the pit area at its entrance, along with warning signs to both participants and patrons concerning the possible dangers of watching automobile racing.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that the defendant “acted negligently with respect to the construction and installation of the guard rail and fencing.”  The defendant thereafter moved for summary judgment based upon the waiver and release agreements signed by the injured pit crew members.  The plaintiffs made several arguments against the enforceability of the waiver and release documents, but the trial court disagreed, granting the motion.  The plaintiff appealed.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals addressed each of plaintiffs arguments in turn.

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Little League Lawsuit Settlement

August 23, 2012

$14.5 Million Settlement for Injured Minor (New Jersey)
(A 12 year old pitcher playing in a youth baseball game was struck in the chest by a ball projected from a metal bat; his family’s lawsuit against the bat manufacturer, Little League Baseball, and the Sports Authority sporting goods chain was settled.)

As reported here on ESPN.com, the terms of the settlement agreement preclude the parties from discussing its details, including whether any of the defendants admitted liability.  It appears that the issue revolved around whether the metal bat used at the time of the incident was appropriate and safe.  Little League Baseball certifies certain bats for approved use in games involving children.  The injured boy encountered cardiac arrest that led to permanent brain damage, and the settlement will help provide long term care for him for the rest of his life.

What a Show

August 15, 2012

Metsker v. Carefree/Scott Fetzer Company (Florida)
(A guest at a recreational vehicle [“RV”] trade show was struck by a pole in a booth for the manufacturer of RV awnings, and he sued both the manufacture and the RV trade association;  the trial court granted the manufacturer’s summary judgment motion by the Court of Appeal reversed finding triable issues of fact.)

The show in question featured displays of RV vehicles and related accessories and services. The plaintiff paid a fee to enter the show.  While he was seated in the defendant manufacturer’s booth a metal pole fell and struck him.  After plaintiff filed his complaint, the manufacturer filed its motion for summary judgment claiming that while it had rented the booth for display, it “did not construct, control, or operate” the booth.  Rather, it had independently contracted with a third party for those booth services.  As such, the manufacturer claimed it did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care.  The trial court agreed, granting the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the Court explained that with regard to premises liability, “the issue of whether a party has a duty of care does not depend on ownership or title to the premises.  Instead, the appropriate inquiry is whether the party has the ability to exercise control over the premises.”  The Court further noted that “[t]wo or more parties may share control over land or business premises,” and as a result, liability “may rest upon more than one party.”

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Wreck-less Behavior

July 20, 2012

Tayar v. Camelback Ski Corporation (Pennsylvania)
(A snow tuber involved in a collision sued a ski resort for negligence and reckless conduct;  the trial court granted the defendant’s motion, dismissing the entire action based on the waiver and release signed by the plaintiff; the decision was overturned on appeal as to the reckless conduct allegations.)

The plaintiff was participating in snow tubing activities at the defendant’s ski resort.  On her fifth run of the day, she was struck by another participant coming down the run.  She was also narrowly missed by others.  Plaintiff filed a complaint against the ski resort, which filed a motion for summary judgment based upon a pre-printed release form that plaintiff had signed prior to participation.  The release applied to all liability that was “the result of negligence or any other improper conduct on the part of the snowtubing facility.”

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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.