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If a baseball player is hit in the face while playing the game, what are the legal implications? Does the injured baseball player have a cause of action?
An appeals court in New York ruled on this exact issue last week in a batting cage lawsuit involving Clarkson University. The court held that participants in sporting and amusement activities assume the foreseeable risks when engaging in the activity.
That said, organizers of the activities are still on the hook for concealed or enhanced dangers.
A college pitcher who was hit in the face with a line drive couldn't hold the university liable for his injury, the New York Court of Appeals wrote.
Shawn Bukowski was injured in 2006 when he was pitching in an indoor facility. He was pitching from an artificial mound without a protective L-shaped net. He was hit in the jaw by a line drive and suffered a broken tooth.
Bukowski brought a lawsuit against the Clarkson University. He lost his case, as the court of appeals decided that Bukowski knew what he was getting himself into. While he had never practiced in a live indoor facility without an L-screen before, he had watched others pitch there and was fully aware of the dangers associated with the sport.
The idea behind the assumption of risk is that a plaintiff is not allowed to recover in a negligence lawsuit if the plaintiff was involved in an obviously dangerous activity and proceeded to engage in the activity, knowing the risks.
The plaintiff needs to have actual and subjective knowledge of the risk involved in the activity. The plaintiff must have voluntarily accepted the risk involved with the activity.
The defense of assumption of risk was essentially the Achilles Heel of Bukowski's lawsuit. And as a result, he wasn't able to collect any medical expenses from the school for his injuries.
The lesson here: Be well aware of the risks before engaging in a potentially dangerous activity.