The Law Office of Louis Grandelli recently obtained a $175,000.00 settlement on behalf of a 41 year old Brooklyn resident who was injured when he fell through a net while performing a stunt on a trapeze in upstate New York. Our office was able to secure this settlement despite the plaintiff's assumption of risk of the anticipated dangers associated with participating in a the trapeze program.
The plaintiff, a long time trapeze enthusiast, enrolled in a weekend long trapeze and circus activity camp. On the first day of the program, the plaintiff was attempting to perform a trick where he would dismount over the trapeze bar, and then be caught by someone on another trapeze swing. After several practice attempts, the plaintiff attempted this trick without safety lines to hold him up. The trick did not go as planned, and the plaintiff fell into the apron of the trapeze rig.
The apron, which is part of the safety netting of a trapeze rig, unexpectedly collapsed when one of the tension ropes fell apart and failed. Instead of being pushed safely into the bed of the netting, the plaintiff fell off the apron and onto the cement below. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff sustained multiple injuries, including a fractured right arm and a fractured right leg, which both required surgery to repair.
In New York, pursuant to the doctrine of primary assumption of risk, a voluntary participant in a sporting or recreational activity consents to those commonly appreciated risks which are inherent in and arise out of the nature of the sport generally and flow from such participation. See Weinberg v. Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, 102 A.D.3d 675 (2nd Dept. 2013). In fact, "[i]f the risks of the activity are fully comprehended or perfectly obvious, plaintiff has consented to them and defendant has performed its duty." Id. at 678.
The defendants disputed liability in the case by arguing that the plaintiff was injured as a result of his assumption of risk of the dangers associated with using a trapeze. And that the plaintiff increased the risk of injury by choosing to perform stunts without being equipped with safety lines.
However, we argued that the failure of the netting was caused by the defendants negligence and that their negligence created a unique condition which posed a danger to the plaintiff beyond what the usual dangers of using a trapeze would impose. Accordingly, the plaintiff could not have anticipated that the ropes holding the apron and netting up would snap and fail when he landed on the apron.
Moreover, while the defendants contended that this accident was the result of the plaintiff's choice to perform the stunt with safety lines, we argued that his comparative negligence would be a question for the jury, but that the plaintiff assumed that risk while unable to anticipate the failure of the other safety devices provided by the defendants; i.e. the netting and apron.
If you or someone you know has been seriously injured while participating in a sports or recreational activity, please contact our office.