With the warm weather upon us, many of us will be spending more time outdoors engaging in sporting and recreational activities. Unfortunately, the more activities that we engage in, the greater the risk for sustaining unexpected injuries. This raises the question of whether the operator of a sports or other recreational activity facility can be held liable for injuries sustained by a participant of such activities.
In New York, the operator of any recreational facility is obligated to take reasonable steps to protect the public from being injured while engaging in activities at their facilities. However, when a person is injured in an activity that has some inherent and heightened risk for injuries, the courts may apply what is called the assumption of risk doctrine to bar the injured person from holding the operator of the facility responsible. So for example, a person that voluntarily participates in an activity such as a basketball or racquetball cannot sue the operator of the facility if they are injured as a result of a foreseeable consequence of the game (i.e. getting knocked over during the game or losing your balance and falling). The courts will essentially hold that the participant knew or should have known that the activity had risks of certain injuries and that the operator owed no duty to protect the participant from such risks.
Often the participant of a sporting or recreational event is asked to sign an agreement or waiver specifically acknowledging the risks of the activity that they will be participating in and releasing the facility operator of any obligations to protect them. These are the waivers or releases that we are often required to sign before the facility will let us participate in the activity. These are considered by the courts to be express agreements that can foreclose an injured party from bringing a claim for injuries against the operator of a sports or recreational facility.
In certain situations, the courts may bar a person from recovering from injuries even in situations where the injured party wasn’t necessarily physically participating in the sporting activity. The classic example is the person who goes to a baseball game and gets hit and injured by a foul ball. Under such circumstances, the courts may the implied assumption of risk doctrine and hold that the injured party assumed the risk of his/her injuries even if they did not sign a waiver acknowledging the risk.
Each case is different and the facts will dictate whether any of the above-mention assumptions of risk doctrines apply. If you or any of your loved ones are injured in any such activity, you should contact Rosenberg & Rodriguez so we can evaluate the situation and determine if you have a viable case.