Anyone who engages in a sport or other physical activity understands there may be some inherent risks involved. If you aren’t in shape, you could pull a muscle. If the game involves tackling, you might get knocked hard to the ground.
Generally, injury lawsuits prohibit claims where the injured person assumed the risk of that injury by participating. But that doesn’t mean every injury sustained in sports, workouts or other physical activity is covered under this umbrella.
Take for example the recent case of Lik v. LA Fitness, recently weighed by the Nassau County Supreme Court in New York. Here, a patron is suing the gym where he held a membership after falling and suffering injury during a basketball game at the facility in January 2014. The issue was not that he fell during the game, but rather the injury he sustained when he hit the floor. Plaintiff alleges that a floor board on the facility’s basketball court was defective and therefore created a dangerous condition. As a property owner, the gym owed a duty of care to customers to ensure the site was reasonably free from dangerous conditions and foreseeable hazards.
According to court records, plaintiff suffered a knee injury after jumping up during a basketball game and then landing on what he characterized as a defective floorboard.
Defendant countered firstly that plaintiff was engaged in a sport that has inherent risks and those risks were assumed by plaintiff when he chose to play. Secondly, defendant argued that even if the floor board was defective, there is no record of any prior occurrences or formal complaints involving that floor condition to suggest the gym staff knew or should have known about the defect. Defendant insisted the gym conducted regular inspections before this incident and there was no indication that there were problems with the floor.
The court denied defense motion for a summary judgement, agreeing with plaintiff that there was evidence from which a reasonable jury could surmise plaintiff’s injuries were caused by a floorboard defect. Such an issue would not be considered an inherent risk of playing basketball. Further, defendant did not provide the court with any inspection record evidence. There was no indication of when the last inspection of the floorboard was.
Proving actual or constructive notice is key to premises liability cases like this one. Plaintiffs have to show that property owners knew – or should have known about – hazards and failed to fix them or warn guests about them.
In this case, as in many, actual notice is tough to prove. A lot of times, there is no clear paper trail to prove a property owner was informed or knew about a dangerous condition. That’s where constructive knowledge comes into play. This is the theory that property owners should have learned about the defect in the course of exercising reasonable care.
That’s why the date of the last inspection is important; it will show whether the gym was using reasonable care in routinely inspecting its facility for potential hazards – like floorboard defects.
In denying summary judgment, the judge is allowing this case to press forward to trial.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Lik v. LA Fitness, May 5, 2016, Nassau County Supreme Court
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Pittman v. Rivera – Bar Not Liable for Assault on Property, May 28, 2016, Charlotte Injury Lawyer Blog