Pardalis & Nohavicka School Sports Law Update: Injured Student Wrestler Allowed to Sue High School for Insufficient Training
This week’s case involves a high school student, Erik, who was injured during wrestling practice. Erik had no prior experience wrestling but wanted to be on Long Island High School’s wrestling team. Unfortunately, Erik missed the first week of practice and missed critical lessons concerning wrestling safety and technique. Nevertheless, the coach allowed Erik to participate in sparring activities. Erik was snared in a gut-wrench and slammed to the mat. Erik was hurt. Erik’s parents sued the school.
The school’s attorneys filed a motion to have the case dismissed arguing that Erik had assumed the risk of getting injured while wrestling and the school could not be held responsible for that. The rule is that when a student assumes the risk of participating in a sporting event, the school is relieved of a legal duty to the student; and being under no duty, the school cannot be charged with negligence.
The reason for the “assumption of risk’ doctrine is to encourage free and vigorous participation in school athletic activities. Without the doctrine, athletes may be reluctant to play aggressively, for fear of being sued by an opposing player.
But the rule applies as long as the school’s conduct does not unreasonably increase the risks assumed by the student.
RULING: the Court did NOT dismiss the case. The judge noted that a jury should be allowed to determine whether the school (here, the coach) increased Erik’s risk of injury by allowing Erik, who had no prior wrestling experience, to wrestle without proper training.
Read more about the case below: