Friday, February 5, 2016

Judge Gibbons Grants Summary Judgment Based on Waiver Form and Assumption of Risk in Football Injury Case

With the Super Bowl on the horizon comes the case of first impression of Feleccia v. Lackawanna Coll., No. 12-CV-1960, 2016 WL 409711 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Feb. 2, 2016 Gibbons, J.), in which Judge James A. Gibbons of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas was faced with the issue whether two junior college students who were injured at a preseason football practice were barred from recovering against the college because both signed waivers of liability prior to their injuries.

In a Motion for Summary Judgment, the defendants also raised the issue of whether, as a matter of law, the Plaintiff’s claims were barred by their assumption of the risk of being injured.

Judge James A. Gibbons
Lackawanna County
In his Opinion, Judge Gibbons noted that, while Pennsylvania courts have upheld exculpatory releases for skiing, whitewater rafting, weight lifting, skating, and motorcycling, among other types of activities, no case was found involving collegiate football.

Judge Gibbons nevertheless ruled that neither the applicable law nor the facts of this case required the court to distinguish between the inherently dangerous nature of football and these other types of sporting activities noted.

As such, the court ruled that waivers of liability executed by the students precluded their recovery.

Alternatively, the court also found that the students assumed the risks of their injuries.  As such, similar to the Denzel case recently highlighted here on Tort Talk, a trial court does have the discretion to enter summary judgment on an application of the assumption of risk doctrine where no reasonable minds on a jury could disagree on a conclusion that a plaintiff assumed the risk of incurring his or her injuries. 

Accordingly, summary judgment was entered in the Defendant's favor in this matter.

Anyone wishing to review this Feleccia decision by Judge Gibbons may click this LINK.


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