Wilson v O’Gorman High School (2008) H&FLR 2014-50

Andrea Wilson v O’Gorman High School and Others (2008) H&FLR 2014-50

United States District Court (District of South Dakota)

26 June 2008

Coram: Schreier CJ

Appearing for the plaintiff: Steve Landon (of Cadwell Sanford Deibert & Garry LLP)
Appearing for the Defendants: Jim McMahon (of Murphy, Goldammer & Prendergast, LLP)

Catchwords: South Dakota – gymnastics – coaching – injury – standard of care – assumption of risk

Facts: The plaintiff was a gymnast and took part in high school gymnastics with the defendant. On 22 January 2003 as part of school gymnastic training she was practicing a manoeuvre known as the “reverse hecht” under the supervision of a coach supplied by the school. She had attempted the manoeuvre about thirty times that day. On her final attempt she released the bar late and fell, suffering severe injuries.

The plaintiff brought proceedings in negligence against the school and coach, alleging (inter alia) that the coach had attempted to instruct her in the reverse hecht despite not being trained to do so, that he had failed to prevent her practicing the manoeuvre as many as thirty times, and that he had not moved her to a foam pit where she could more safely practice the manoeuvre despite her multiple failed attempts.

The defendants disputed the applicable standard of care and also asserted voluntary assumption of risk and contributory negligence. The defendants sought summary dismissal of her claim.

Held: Refusing the application for summary judgment –

1. To establish negligence a plaintiff must establish that there was a duty on the part of defendants, that they failed to meet that duty, and that this failure resulted in injury*.

Kuehl v Horner (JW) Lumber Co, 678 NW.2d 809 (SD 2004), followed.

2. The standard of care is not reduced for people engaged in sporting activities, like coaches or sports administrators. The general standard of care applies.

Kahn v East Side Union High School District, 75 P.3d 30 (Cal. 2003), not followed.
Gasper v Freidel, 450 NW.2d 226 (SD 1990), distinguished.
Rantapaa v Black Hills Chair Lift Co, 633 NW.2d 196 (SD 2001), considered.

3. Application of the general negligence standard still allows the defendant to allege assumption of risk.  To succeed on this basis a defendant must show that the plaintiff had actual or constructive knowledge of the risk, appreciated its character, and voluntarily accepted the risk (having had the time, knowledge, and experience to make an intelligent choice). However, a plaintiff is not obliged to anticipate the negligent conduct of others.

Goepfert v Filler, 563 NW.2d 140 (SD 1997) and Ray v Downes, 576 NW.2d 896 (SD 1998), followed.

Judgment
The Court’s judgment is available here.
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* The defendants did not dispute that they owed the plaintiff a duty of care.

Michelle Rios v Grossmont Union High School District (2013) H&FLR 2014-15

Michelle Rios & Ors v Grossmont Union High School District (2013) H&FLR 2014-15

Fourth District Court of Appeal for California

16 December 2013

Coram: McConnell PJ, Irion and O’Rourke JJ.

Appearing for the Appellant: Mark C. Choate (of Choate Law Firm) and Jon R. Williams (of Boudreau Williams LLP)

Appearing for the Respondent: Daniel R. Shinoff and Paul Vincent Carelli (both of Stutz Atiano Shinoff & Holtz APC)

Catchwords: California – high school – football – ankle injury – returned to play – tackle – spinal injury – negligence – standard of care – jury instructions –  appeal

Facts: Michelle and Reymond Rios were the parents of Colter Rios, who suffered a spinal injury while playing for a high school football team organised by the defendant.  He sustained an ankle injury during play and, after having the ankle strapped by a college student who was studying athletic training (rather than the school’s athletic trainer himself), was returned to the field.  After rejoining play, he was tackled by an opposing player and suffered significant injuries.

Master Rios and his parents brought proceedings against the defendant school district.  They alleged that the District had negligently allowed him to continue to play following his ankle injury.  The parties agreed that the ordinary standard of care applied, with the further detail that adults must anticipate the ordinary behaviour of children and be more careful in dealing with children than in dealing with other adults.  The jury was permitted to consider the community’s customs or practices in assessing what a reasonable person would have done in the circumstances.  It was also agreed by the plaintiffs that the standard of care to be observed by school staff is that which a person of ordinary prudence and having comparable duties would exercise under the same circumstances.  They did not ask that the jury be given any particular instructions based on the standards of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association standards or of the California Interscholastic Federation.

The jury returned a finding of no negligence.  The plaintiffs appealed.

Held: Per curiam, dismissing the appeal –

1.            The court at first instance had correctly instructed the jury as to the law: in a claim for injuries suffered in a high school football game, the standard of care required of a school official is that which a person of ordinary prudence, with the same responsibilities and in the same circumstances, would exercise.

Pirkle v Oakdale Union Grammar School District, 253 P.2d 1, 40 Cal.2d 207 (1953), followed.

2.            When the relevant law has been stated correctly in a general charge to the jury, a party may not argue on appeal that a more specific instruction should have been given, unless they at the time requested a more specific instruction be given.

White v Inbound Aviation, 69 Cal.App.4th 910, 82 Cal.Rptr.2d 71 (1999), followed.

No finding was made on whether more specific instructions should actually have been given to the jury.

Judgment

The court’s judgment is available here.  The Supreme Court of California declined to consider an appeal.