Batter Up, Pitcher Down
Q: My daughter was injured while participating in junior-varsity softball-team batting practice for her high school, under the direct supervision of her coach, on the school’s grounds. The coach had instructed all pitchers, like my Petunia, to be closer to home plate, than to the pitching mound – in order to throw a quick succession of pitches.
Although the team was using a protective pitching screen, it was not freestanding. Rather, the screen was propped up between two benches and had fallen down several times during the batting practice. Near the end of batting practice, the screen fell again while Petunia was pitching. The coach directed no one to put it back up. “Leave it on the ground.” After consulting with the coach, Petunia threw another pitch. It was hit back at Petunia and struck her in the face.
A: Pursuant to the doctrine of ‘primary assumption of risk’, a voluntary participant in a sporting or recreational activity 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. Under this doctrine, if the risks of the activity are fully comprehended or perfectly obvious, then it is held that the plaintiff has consented to them.
However, the primary assumption of risk doctrine does not serve as a bar to liability if the risk is un-assumed, concealed or unreasonably increased. Awareness of risk is not to be determined in a vacuum. Rather, it is to be assessed against the background of the skill and experience of the particular plaintiff.
Your attorney will argue, convincingly, that there is no way that the faulty equipment provided by the school and the decreased distance between Petunia and the batter, from which she was pitching at the direction of the coach without the benefit of the screen, represent risks that are inherent in the sport of softball.
Under the circumstances of this case, the doctrine of primary assumption of risk certainly is not applicable and does not operate to bar recovery. Petunia had been specifically instructed by her coach to pitch, without the benefit of the screen, closer to home plate than is the standard distance for pitching in the sport of softball. She cannot be said to have assumed the tragic risk of being hit in the face by this line drive.
By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial
The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.
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