In a recent case, an experienced skater had an ice skating accident while she was skating at the Rockefeller Center ice rink. The injured skater claimed two disruptive skaters pushed her down onto the skating rink. These two disruptive skaters had caused other skaters to fall to the ice before her own accident. The injured skater 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.
The skater’s testimony showed the two disruptive skaters before the ice skating accident were spinning each other on ice. In doing so, they were skating in circles and then flinging each other into other skaters. The skating rink operators prohibited this type of conduct. However, before her accident, the injured skater was unable to find any rink employees to report the disruptive skaters.
The accident occurred when the two ice skaters were spinning and one skater flew off. The disruptive skater struck the injured ice skater and knocked her down. A friend 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 ice skating rink operators requested a lower court judge decide they are not responsible for the injured skater’s accident and asked to dismiss the complaint. The lower court granted their request and dismissed this lawsuit. The judge agreed with the skating rink’s argument that the injured skater’s accident took place while she was voluntarily participating in a recreational activity. Since she assumed the risks that come with ice skating in an rink, the operators were not responsible for her injuries.
The New York courts generally dismiss lawsuits involving voluntary participants in a sporting or recreational event. This is because these individuals are generally considered as having agreed to take the risk of becoming injured. For example, a soccer player injured himself when his cleat became stuck in a drainage grate. The grate was located a few feet away from the field’s edge. He had run onto the grate to retrieve the ball that traveled out of bounds. The court dismissed the soccer player’s case. The player accepted the risk of injuries by playing on the field. In another example, a lacrosse player’s injuries occurred when his foot came in contact with a clearly visible goal post. He assumed the risk of injuries, resulting in the dismissal of his case. This was based on his voluntarily participating in the event.
However, in this case, the injured ice skater was able to reverse the lower court decision dismissing her case. The appellate court stated collisions between skaters are a common occurrence and a risk in the sport of ice skating. However, participants are not consenting to “reckless or intentional” acts. The injured skater argued the ice skating accident occurred because the rink was negligent in supervising the skaters. The appellate court relied on the injured skater’s testimony that the two disruptive skaters’ actions caused her injuries. Before the accident and over more than 20 minutes, their actions caused three additional skaters to fall to the ice.
The court’s decision shows how 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 was responsible for the ice skating accident and her injuries. Given the length of time, the skating rink manager was deemed to have enough time to become aware of reckless conduct occurring on the rink. This required it to take steps to prevent it from continuing.
This case shows how athletes, whether experienced or amateur, do not automatically assume the risk of injuries. In sporting or recreational events, there are dangers over and above the known usual dangers. The disruptive skaters’ actions over an extended time indicated the skating rink operators had adequate time to become aware of the dangerous conduct. Despite this, the rink operators failed to take any steps to protect other skaters on the ice rink from harm. The court applying this standard on skating rink operators found them responsible for the safety of its patrons. This was even if its employees did not witness the events that preceded the accident. If the rink operator was adequately supervising the skating rink then the ice skating accident was avoidable.
With an average annual estimate of 8.6 million sports and recreation related injuries, it is highly likely that you or your loved one will at some time being involved in an accident. Therefore, when you become injured during a sporting event or recreational activity, it is important to get the names of witnesses who can describe what caused the accident. Witnesses can prove another participant’s actions went above and beyond acceptable behavior. Also photographs of a dangerous condition that was not a typical part of a playing area, such as a torn net, can also help show a participant did not assume the risk of injuries.
Similar to the disruptive skaters who caused the ice skating accident, when you are hurt by a risk not a part of the sporting or recreational activity, contact our lawyers at the Platta Law Firm. Our personal injury lawyers understand the law on assumption of the risk and can prove the persons operating a skating rink or supervising the activity are responsible for your ice skating accident.