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Health Club Escapes Liability for Unforeseen Sports Brawl


October 11, 2012 at 6:30:17 PM

In <em>Ullrich v. Bronx House Community Ctr., </em>the First Department reversed the lower court and granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, holding that an assault by a fellow basketball player was an intentional and unforeseeable act of a third party, for which the defendants were not liable.  Plaintiff sustained injuries when another player punched him in the jaw. Based on the facts of the case, the assault was unprovoked, unanticipated, and could not have been prevented because it occurred so quickly. However, plaintiff argued that the assailant’s club membership should have been suspended prior to the incident because he had been involved in a dispute with other club members several months earlier, thereby putting the defendants on notice of his violent demeanor.  In granting the defendants' motion, the First Department held that the notice was not sufficiently specific for the defendants to have reasonably anticipated the assault upon plaintiff. Rather, the incident was an intentional and unforeseeable act of the assailant. Thus, when participating in sports events, would-be plaintiffs should take note that they cannot necessarily blame a sports club for a hot headed player who assaults them. It is the offending player – not the “deep pocket” sports club – that they should be suing.

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