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Teen's $1M Judo Injury Lawsuit Thrown Out

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By Betty Wang, JD on August 12, 2013 12:21 PM

A teenager's $1 million-dollar judo injury lawsuit has been thrown out by a New York judge.

Anthony Morales Jr., now 14 years old, broke his ankle three years ago while in the middle of a take-down move at a martial arts academy on Staten Island, New York. Morales and his father alleged that because the younger Morales was partnered up with a heavier and taller adult, the academy should be found negligent and held liable for the injury.

But after weighing all the arguments, the judge decided he couldn't pin the boy's injury on the martial arts school. Here's why.

Negligence Basics

The judge ruled that, despite Morales Jr. only being 11 at the time, he still assumed the risk of his injury. Therefore, there was no negligence.

Negligence is a legal theory that can hold someone liable for causing injury. It requires that a certain number of elements exist: a duty to the injured, a breach of that duty, causation, and damages as a result.

In this case, Morales was claiming that the academy had a duty to Morales because he was one of their students, and that they breached that duty when they allowed for him to be paired up with an older and physically bigger person. The suit asserted that because an adult was paired up with the smaller Morales, it caused his injury, and that the broken ankle was the result.

Some Pain, but No Gain

While there may all be an adequate basis for a negligence case, the judge still found that Morales assumed the risk of his injury. Assumption of the risk is a defense to negligence that's common for contact sports.

In order for the doctrine to apply, the plaintiff must have actual and subjective knowledge of the risk, but then proceed to engage in the activity anyway. Thus, he would be voluntarily assuming that risk. Any unknown dangers or additional harm outside of that scope would not apply.

According to an affidavit from a judo expert, pairing an adult with a child is an accepted practice in the sport of judo. There is also apparently no standard requiring that students be paired with partners of like size and age. Thus, Morales, who has been practicing martial arts since he was 5, likely assumed the risk, the judge found.

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