Appeals Court Reverses Lower Court in Baseball Case

Feb 26, 2004

An appellate division of the Supreme Court of New York has reversed a lower court’s ruling and found for a municipality in case where a softball player, who had injured himself while sliding into a base, had sued the town for negligence.
Kevin M. Stadelmaier was sliding into second base during a softball game, when his foot got caught in the dirt. Stadelmaier alleged that the field had been raked and groomed, but that because the surface was too hard his lead foot got caught in the surface.
The plaintiff sued the Town of Tonawanda and its Parks and Recreation Dept, seeking damages for the injuries he suffered.
The appellate judges found that the Supreme Court erred in denying the defendants’ motion for summary judgment to dismiss the complaint. The judges noted that the defendants “met their initial burden by establishing that ‘plaintiff voluntarily participated in the softball game, fully aware of the condition of the field and the inherent risk of injury’ (Swan v Town of Grand Is., 234 A.D.2d 934, 935, 652 N.Y.S.2d 166).”
Specifically, that risk of injury included “sliding into base[, which] is an integral part of the game of softball. (Totino v Nassau County Council of Boy Scouts of Am., 213 A.D.2d 710, 711, 625 N.Y.S.2d 51, lv denied 86 N.Y.2d 708, 658 N.E.2d 220, 634 N.Y.S.2d 442).”
Plaintiffs also “failed to raise an issue of fact whether defendants breached their duty to protect plaintiff, a voluntary participant in an athletic event, from ‘unassumed, concealed or unreasonably increased risks’ (Benitez v New York City Bd. of Educ., 73 N.Y.2d 650, 658, 541 N.E.2d 29, 543 N.Y.S.2d 29).”
The clincher appeared to be the plaintiff’s familiarity with the playing field, since he had played on that field for many years, and had even previously been employed by the defendants to maintain the field. Kevin M. Stadelmaier et al. v. Town of Tonawanda et al., CA 03-01186
S.CT. N.Y., App. Div., 4th Dept., 12/31/03
Attorneys of Record: (for defendants-appellants) Nicole B. Palmerton of Brown & Kelly, LLP in Buffalo. (for plaintiffs-respondents) Anthony D. Abbarno of McLaughlin & Kedzielawa in Buffalo.


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