Sheaf Happens: Spectator Loses Due To Assumption Of Risk At Sheaf Tossing Competition (NY)
The sheaf toss is a traditional Scottish agricultural sport event originally contested at country fairs. A pitchfork is used to hurl a burlap bag stuffed with straw over a horizontal bar above the competitor’s head. Three chances are given to each competitor to cleanly go over the bar, without touching it. After all challengers have made their attempts, the bar is raised and all successful competitors move on to the new height. This continues until all but one athlete is eliminated.
In McKay v. Rockland Gaelic Athletic Association et al., the plaintiff allegedly was injured on the grounds of the defendant Rockland Gaelic Athletic Association, Inc. by an errant sheaf tossed by the defendant Noel C. Cronin during a sheaf-tossing competition.
The plaintiff commenced this action against the defendants to recover damages for personal injuries. Defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against each of them. The Supreme Court granted the defendants’ separate motions, and the plaintiffs appeal.
The Second Department affirmed the lower Court’s ruling under the theory of assumption of risk. “The doctrine of primary assumption of the risk applies not only to participants in a qualified activity, but also to bystanders or spectators who have placed themselves in close proximity to it.” Since plaintiff was a willing spectator, she should have known and been aware of her surroundings. the risk of being hit by a thrown sheaf is obvious and inherent and therefore, not actionable and summary judgment was appropriate in this matter.
Thanks to Paul Vitale for his contribution to this post. Any questions, please contact Georgia Coats.