In a recent case involving a fall on ice, an experienced skater was injured while she was skating at the Rockefeller Center ice rink. The injured ice skater claimed she was pushed down onto the rink because of the actions of two disruptive skaters who caused other skaters to fall to the ice before her own accident. The injured skater claimed she observed these disruptive skaters pushing each other, spinning and skating against the flow of the other skaters. These events took place over the course of more than 20 minutes. During this time, she had seen at least three other skaters fall to the ice.
A review of the skater’s testimony showed that before her accident, the two disruptive skaters were spinning each other on ice, skating in circles and then flinging each other into other skaters. This behavior was noted to be prohibited by the operators of the skating rink. However, before she was injured, this skater was unable to find any employees from the rink to report the disruptive skaters.
The accident occurred when the two skaters were spinning and one skater flew off, hitting and knocking the injured skater down. A friend who was with the injured skater confirmed the injured skater’s testimony describing what occurred before the accident. Due to her fall to the ground, the injured skater fractured her wrist.
After all discovery was completed, the skating rink operators filed a request with a lower court judge to decide liability in their favor and dismiss the complaint brought by the injured skater. The lower court granted their request and dismissed this lawsuit. The judge agreed with the skating rink’s argument that the injured skater was a voluntary participant in a recreational activity, and she had assumed the risks that come with skating in an ice rink.
In New York, the courts generally dismiss lawsuits where a voluntary participant in a sporting or recreational event was found to have agreed to the risk of becoming injured. For example, a soccer player was injured when his cleat became stuck in a drainage grate located a few feet away from the edge of the field. He had run onto the grate to retrieve the ball that traveled out of bounds. His case was dismissed since it was assumed that the soccer player accepted the risk of getting injured in this manner. In another example, a lacrosse player was injured during practice when his foot came in contact with a goal post that was clearly visible. His case was also dismissed since he assumed the risk of getting injured when he voluntarily participated in the event.
However, in this case, the injured skater was able to reverse the lower court decision dismissing her case. The appellate court stated that although collisions between skaters are a common occurrence and a risk in the sport of ice skating, participants do not consent to acts that are considered “reckless or intentional”. The injured skater argued the skating rink was negligent in its supervision of the skaters. The appellate court agreed to rely on the injured skater’s testimony that the acts of the two disruptive skaters that caused her injuries took place over more than 20 minutes and caused three additional skaters to fall to the ice before the accident occurred.
The court’s decision shows that the length of time between the start of the reckless or dangerous conduct and the accident was crucial in deciding whether the proprietor of the skating rink can be found responsible for the ice skater’s injuries. Given the length of time, the skating rink manager should have been aware of the reckless conduct taking place on the rink and taken steps to prevent it from continuing. Even in sporting or recreational events, there are dangers that are over and above the usual dangers known from the event. The actions taken by the disruptive skaters over an extended period indicated to the court that the skating rink had adequate time to become aware of the dangerous conduct but failed to take any steps to protect other skaters on the ice rink from harm. The court’s applying this standard on skating rink operators found them responsible for the safety of its patrons even if its employees did not witness the events that preceded the accident. If the skating rink operator was adequately supervising the skating rink then the accident was avoidable.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of an accident, please reach out to us for a free legal consultation by calling us 24/7 at 212– 514–5100, emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting our law firm in lower Manhattan (42 Broadway, Suite 1927). You can also ask us questions through the 24-hour chat box on our website (www.plattalaw.com). We offer free consultations for all potential personal injury cases.