A recent Court of Appeals touches on an issue present in two prior posts: one post was on injuries at school, and a second post dealt with exculpatory clauses. The legal issue is Assumption of Risk.
The Assumption of Risk rule announced in 1929 by legendary Judge Cardozo of the Court of the Appeals states: “one who takes part in . . . a sport accepts the dangers that inhere in it so far as they are obvious and necessary.” The rule was given an updated interpretation on April 27, 2023 in the cases of Grady and Secky.
Secky was a basketball player at New Paltz High School. The Coach asked players to participate in rebounding drill with another player to compete for a rebound. Secky got the worst of the competition and was thrown into bleachers, causing a right shoulder injury.
Grady was a baseball player at Chenango Valley High School. Grady was participating in a fielding drill with five players and two coaches. Grady was stationed at first base. To Grady’s right (between first and second base) there was a seven foot by seven foot fence. And on the other side of fence was a second player stationed at “short first base.” There was also a thrid baseman, short stop and second baseman. One coach was hitting ground balls to the third baseman who was throwing to the first baseman. A second coach (at the same time) was hitting ground balls to the short stop who was directed to throw the ball to the second baseman, and then the second baseman would throw the ball to “short first base.” Unfortunately for Grady, one of the balls from the second baseman, missed the “short first baseman,” went past the fence, and struck Grady on the right side of his face, causing significant vision loss.
The Court of Appeals overruled the Supreme Court and the Appellate division and found Grady has a case that can go to jury and let the jury decide if this baseball drill was unique and created dangers over and above the usual dangers of baseball.
Secky was not as fortunate. The drill did not unreasonably increase the risk of injury beyond that inherent in the sport of basketball.