Thursday, December 29, 2011

Judge Van Jura of Luzerne County Addresses No Duty Rule in Baseball Injury Case

In his recent decision in the case of DeAngelo v. Little League International, No. 6296 of 2008 (C.P. Luz. Dec. 16, 2011 Van Jura, J.), Judge Joseph Van Jura of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas addressed the “no duty” rule in a case involving an assistant baseball coach being struck in the face by an overthrown baseball during a post-game practice.

According to the opinion, a little league baseball game was stopped, by virtue of the “10 run rule” (or “mercy rule”), which dictates that, at the end of any inning after the 4th inning, if one team has a lead of 10 runs or more, the manager of the losing team must concede victory to the opponent and the game is then ended.

After the game was completed, the teams apparently agreed to continue playing for additional practice purposes. During the post-game practicing, the Plaintiff was injured when he was standing near first base and a short stop over threw the first basement and struck the Plaintiff on the right side of his head, causing serious injuries, including right eye blindness.

After the case proceeded to discovery, the Defendant, Little League Baseball Incorporated and Hazle Township Little League filed a Motion for Summary Judgment under the “no duty” rule. According to the opinion, the Defendants asserted that the “no duty” rule applied under the circumstances.

Judge Van Jura conducted a detailed analysis of the “no duty” rule which serves to “eliminate any duty of care to warn, protect, or ensure against risks which are ‘common, frequent, expected’ and ‘inherent’ in an activity voluntarily undertaken by a prospective Plaintiff.” [citations omitted]. The court noted that, if it is determined that the no-duty rule is applicable to a negligence claim, the Plaintiff is unable to proceed.

Judge Van Jura stated that it while it appeared that the no-duty rule would apply if this occurrence took place during the actual game, the issue before the court was “whether the no-duty rule would be properly applicable to the two independently simultaneously occurring “practices” on the same field, by the two different teams.”

Judge Van Jura stated that Pennsylvania law has made it clear that the injury need not occur during the actual conduct of a game for recovery to be barred by the “no duty rule.”

After reviewing the law in greater detail, including the number of decisions arising out of baseball games, professional and otherwise, the court concluded that the “no duty” rule barred the Plaintiff’s recovery under the facts presented. Accordingly, the court granted the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed the Plaintiff’s Complaint.

Anyone desiring a copy of this interesting opinion by Judge Van Jura in the DeAngelo case may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

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