Court Discusses Duty Owed to Co-Participants in Sporting Events

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case raising an interesting issue that may arise in Washington, D.C. personal injury cases involving sports related injuries. The question involved the duty of care owed among co-participants in a sport event, and under what circumstances that duty applies.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and defendant were golfing together when the defendant struck the plaintiff while driving the golf cart. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, seeking compensation for the injuries he sustained in the accident.

The defendant claimed that, as a co-participant in the golfing game, he owed the plaintiff a duty to refrain from acting recklessly. The plaintiff argued that the standard was one of “negligence.” The trial court agreed with the defendant, imposing a reckless standard, and the jury resolved the case in the defendant’s favor. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the court improperly applied the reckless standard.

The issue in the case was whether being struck by a golf cart is an inherent risk of golfing. If so, the defendant would be correct because co-participants in a sporting activity owe each other a duty to refrain from reckless conduct when the risk is one that is inherent to the activity. On the other hand, if being struck by a golf cart was not an inherent risk of golfing, then the plaintiff would be correct because a negligence standard applies to those risks that are not inherent.

The Case Goes up on Appeal

On initial appeal, the court determined that being struck by a golf cart was not an inherent risk of golfing. The intermediate appellate court based this decision on a lengthy discussion on the origins and philosophy of golf and the relatively new introduction of the golf cart. The defendant appealed to the state’s high court.

On its second appeal, the case was again reversed. The state’s high court explained that the philosophical approach taken by the intermediate appellate court did not lend itself to legal analysis, and that the court should have used more real-world considerations. The court explained that the proper analysis considers whether the risk was “reasonably foreseeable” given the circumstances. The court explained that this standard will be much easier to apply, more in line with other aspects of the law, and will not requires judges make the determination as to what constitutes the “essence” of a sport.

Have You Been Injured in a Sport Event?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while playing or watching a sporting event, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience representing injury victims in a wide range of claims arising out of sporting related injuries, including Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accidents at stadiums and injuries inflicted during play itself. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

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