Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Summary Judgment Denied in Football Sidelines Injury Case

In the case of Cantafio v. Valley View School District, No. 2018-CV-2991 (C.P. Lacka. Co. May 13, 2021 Gibbons, J.), Judge James A. Gibbons of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas addressed a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Defendant, Valley View School District, in a case in which the Plaintiff's decedent was standing along the sidelines of a high school football game and was hit by players who spilled onto the sidelines during a play, which caused the decedent to be propelled backwards, as a result of which he ultimately fell backwards and struck his head on an asphalt surface which bordered the playing field. 
The decedent unfortunately suffered injuries which ultimately resulted in his death approximately ten (10) days later. The decedent’s son was on the stand with the decedent’s grandson and witnessed the incident.

The Defendant, Valley View School District, offered several reasons in support of its Motion for Summary Judgment. The school district argued that, as a political subdivision, it was entitled to immunity under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act. 

The school district Defendant also asserted that it was entitled to judgment under the law of the no-duty doctrine. 

The Defendant additionally asserted that it was entitled to summary judgment under assumption of risk doctrine and/or that the Plaintiff had failed to establish that the Defendant was negligent as a matter of law. 

On the claims asserted by the decedent's son, the Defendant argued that the Plaintiff had failed to put forth facts sufficient to support a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The court addressed each of these arguments in term and denied all of them.  In the end, the school district’s Motion for Summary Judgment was denied.

In his Opinion, Judge Gibbons provides a thorough update on the current status of the law surrounding the no-duty doctrine and the immunity provided under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act.

Judge Gibbons also confirmed that the assumption of risk doctrine remains a valid defense under Pennsylvania law. After outlining the elements of that defense, the court found that the Defendant had not offered sufficient proof to compel the application of that doctrine. The court emphasized that there remains a “reluctance under Pennsylvania law to find that the assumption of the risk applicable unless it is quite clear that the specific risk that occasioned injury was both fully appreciated and voluntarily accepted.” [citation omitted] [emphasis in original citation deleted here]

With regard to the claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress asserted on behalf of the decedent’s son, the court outlined the current elements of that law and found that issues of act prevented the entry of summary judgment.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

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