Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Chief Magistrate Judge Saporito of Federal Middle District Court Reviews Assumption of Risk Doctrine

In the case of Hazen v. Woodloch Pines Resort, No. 3:21-CV-00174 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 16, 2024 Saporito, C.M.J.) Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito, Jr., of the Federal Middle District Court of Pennsylvania denied a Motion for Summary Judgment by a Defendant resort in a fall down case.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff was engaged in a corporate team building activity on an outdoor low ropes challenge course. During one of the challenges, the Plaintiff fell, along with other members of her team, to the ground below.  The Plaintiff allegedly suffered a significant ankle injury, including an ankle dislocation and fracture.

The Defendants filed a Motion for Summary arguing that the Plaintiff’s claims were barred under the assumption of risk doctrine.

Judge Saporito reviewed the current status of the Pennsylvania law on the assumption of risk doctrine. While the court found that it was undisputed that the Plaintiff was generally aware of the risk that she might fall from the balance beam during the activity she was engaged in, the court noted that awareness of a general risk does not amount to awareness of a specific risk under the assumption of the risk doctrine under Pennsylvania law. Here, the court did not find that the potential for serious injury such as a complex ankle fracture and other injuries could have been appreciated under the circumstances presented.

Moreover, the court noted that there is factual dispute as to whether the Plaintiff’s participation in the challenge course was voluntary as that term is defined under the assumption of the risk doctrine. The Plaintiff offered testimony that she felt that her participation in this team building activity was required rather than voluntary.

Accordingly, in light of the issues of fact presented, the court denied the Motion for Summary Judgment.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The Court's companion Order can be viewed HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney James Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

Source:  Photo by Thomas Couillard from www.unsplash.com.

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