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Friday, August 11, 2006
How Not to Teach A Softball Team to Slide

A New York appellate court has upheld a trial court's decision allowing some portions of an injured softball player's suit against her school to go forward. See Ross v. New York Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, 2006 WL 2291108 (N.Y. App. 2006). The plaintiff had twisted and fractured her right lower leg while performing an exercise to practice sliding. According to the court,
The drill was conducted in the school gymnasium, under the supervision of the softball team's coach and her assistant, both of whom were defendant's employees. The students took turns running across the hardwood floor toward an area where the floor was covered by parachute material, where they were directed to slide on the material. . . . [P]laintiff testified that the coach and her assistant did not smooth out and reset the material after each student's slide . . . .
The appellate court upheld the trial court's decision to let the plaintiff proceed with her case over the defendant's primary assumption of risk argument. The court reasoned that the plaintiff had raised a triable issue of fact as to whether the softball team coaches had increased the risks ordinarily associated with softball practice participation:
To begin, plaintiffs' expert opined that the coach unreasonably increased the risks of the exercise by directing the students to slide while wearing sneakers, which, according to the expert, would create traction on the gymnasium floor from which injury could result. In addition, the expert opined that, if (as the . . . plaintiff testified) the parachute material were not smoothed out and reset before each successive slide, such an omission was a breach of sound coaching practice that could have been the cause of the accident. In this regard, it is significant that . . . the accident occurred when her leg "got caught" in material that was "bunched up" from the previous slide. Finally, the expert opined that the coach should not have directed the . . . plaintiff to begin sliding before she reached the parachute material. Given that the uncovered hardwood floor would have generated greater friction than the material, beginning to slide while still on the uncovered floor (if this is what the infant plaintiff did) could have been a cause of the accident.
However, the court rejected plaintiff's claim that the failure to use a "spotter" increased the risks associated with the sport which plaintiff assumed by way of her voluntary participation. The court opined, "If plaintiffs were permitted to go to trial on this theory, predicated solely on defendant's alleged failure to realize a conceivably attainable additional increment of safety, little would remain of the well-established doctrine of primary assumption of risk."


Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/11/2006 10:10 AM

I find it strange that the "expert" would say that sliding in shoes unreasonably increased the risks of the exercise when the adds for a similar product depicts athletes sliding in tennis shoes.

It seems strange that the judge in essence sends to the jury this question which could lead to a situation where no slide practice takes place, thereby increasing the risks associated with improper sliding in game situations.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/11/2006 11:56 AM  

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