Many people in this country have heard legal terms of art during their lifetime. When someone mentions a phrase, such as “assumption of the risk,” what comes to mind? For many Jersey City residents, images of sporting events often come to mind.
Last year, this blog recounted the story of a product liability case brought on behalf of the estate of a young baseball pitcher who died after being struck by a line-drive in a youth baseball game. That case rose up to the Supreme Court of a mountain state in the U.S, where the court upheld the wrongful death jury award against the aluminum bat manufacturing company.
Another such lawsuit has been filed against a baseball bat manufacturing company after a 15-year-old pitcher was struck in the head by a batted ball. Recently, that case too went before a jury in the nation’s breadbasket.
The young man was pitching a youth baseball game several years ago when he was struck in the head. The athlete sustained severe injuries, including a broken nose, a broken eye socket and severe facial injuries. Doctors had to perform multiple surgeries in an effort to repair the damage. The young man has two metal plates in his head due to the sporting injury.
The young man and his family sued the manufacturer in a product defect lawsuit, claiming the bat had a design defect. The lawsuit also alleged that the manufacturer failed to warn consumers about the increased risk the bat posed, due to the potential speed the ball can leave the surface of the aluminum bat during a game.
Here is where the concept of primary assumption of the risk comes in. The bat manufacturer argued to the jury that it should not be held liable for the young man’s injuries on the claim the athlete assumed the risk of injury by deciding to play baseball.
The jury was asked to explicitly address the question of assumption of the risk during its jury deliberations and answer the question on its verdict form. The jury unanimously found that the player had not assumed the risk.
Assumption of the risk is a complex concept. Primary assumption of the risk generally bars a plaintiff from recovering in a Paterson personal injury lawsuit. However, in order to assume the risk, a victim must generally be aware of, and appreciate, the specific potential risk involved in order to legally be responsible for assuming that risk.