Baseball Player-Plaintiff called Out at Second Base (NY)
A 16-year old decides to play baseball, slips while running to second base, and hurts himself while sliding into second base. The plaintiff filed suit against the owner of the field, Baseball Heaven in Yaphank. According to the plaintiff, the defendant was to blame for his injuries because just a few years ago, it had installed artificial turf and anchored, stationary bases instead of breakaway bases.
But in its summary judgment motion in Gonch v Baseball Heaven, Inc. (2019 NY Slip Op 03030), the defendant submitted evidence that the plaintiff was actually an experienced baseball player who knew that the bases were anchored in place. Relying on the well-established assumption of risk doctrine, the court granted the defendant’s motion. In doing so, the court reasoned that the plaintiff’s injuries were inherent in the game of baseball and that the plaintiff was aware of that risk.
As an aside, in my experience, Baseball Heaven in Yaphank is a well-maintained facility, meaning, this decision reaches the right outcome. Although, having grown up playing baseball in New York City, where removing broken glass and syringes from the baselines was a common occurrence, a stationary second base bag doesn’t seem all that hazardous. But I digress…
Gonch is the latest in a recent line of decisions applying the common sense assumption of risk doctrine to shield those who operate sporting events from lawsuits brought by people in the ordinary course of sporting activity. While the use of artificial turf may be an ongoing crime against the American pastime, property owners and insurers can take some comfort that the assumption of risk doctrine remains anchored in New York law. Thanks to Mike Gauvin for his contribution to this post. Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.