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The Rogak Report: 03 May 2006 ** Recreational Risks - Ice Skating **

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  • Lawrence Rogak
    PROFESSIONAL SPEED SKATER ASSUMES RISK OF CRASHING INTO BOARDS SURROUNDING RINK Ziegelmeyer v. United States Olympic Committee, NYLJ 5/03/06 (3d Dept 2006)
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2006

      Ziegelmeyer v. United States Olympic Committee, NYLJ 5/03/06 (3d Dept

      Plaintiff, a self professed "very experienced and highly proficient"
      speedskater and two-time Olympic medal winner, was practicing at the
      1980 Olympic indoor rink in the Village of Lake Placid, Essex County,
      when she fell on the ice, hit the fiberglass boards surrounding the
      rink and injured her spine. Although pads had been placed on the
      boards, plaintiff fell in such a manner that her feet lifted them up
      causing her hip to strike the boards directly. She asserted in this
      negligence action that certain defendants are liable for her injuries
      based upon their failure to install the pads in accordance with
      applicable international standards. After discovery, Supreme Court,
      Greene County, granted defendants' motions for summary judgment and
      dismissed the complaint, finding that plaintiff had assumed the risk
      of her injury. Plaintiff appealed.

      The Appellate Division held that an athlete who voluntarily
      participates in a sport "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." The "duty under such
      circumstances is a duty to exercise care to make the conditions as
      safe as they appear to be. If the risks of the activity are fully
      comprehended or perfectly obvious, plaintiff has consented to them
      and defendant has performed its duty. It is not necessary that the
      injured plaintiff foresee the exact manner in which her injury
      occurred. Moreover, a higher degree of awareness will be imputed to a
      professional than to one with less than professional experience in
      the particular sport."

      "In an effort to avoid application of the assumption of risk
      doctrine, plaintiff relies on the principle that a damaged or
      dangerous safety feature is not an inherent risk of a sport. This
      record does not establish that the pads were either damaged or
      defective. No factual affidavit was submitted by plaintiff disputing
      the affidavit of a fellow speedskater and coach to the effect that
      falling speedskaters often strike the pads in such a fashion as to
      cause the pads to move out of position on impact. Even acknowledging
      the conflicting accounts as to the method by which the pads were
      affixed to the boards, in the absence of a denial that the pads can
      move in the fashion in which this accident occurred, we cannot say
      that the subject pads were defective or dangerous such that
      plaintiff's accident was anything other than an inherent risk of her

      The order granting summary judgment to defendants was affirmed. Two
      judges dissented.

      Comment: In a footnote, the Court noted that "Plaintiff was acutely
      aware of the manner in which the pads were affixed to the boards
      during these practice sessions since she herself had participated in
      that very process on prior occasions."

      Larry Rogak
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