Court Awards Summary Judgment, Saying Cheerleader Assumed Risk in Fall

Dec 7, 2007

A New York state court judge in Nassau County has granted a school’s motion for summary judgment in a personal injury case involving a cheerleader who fell while practicing a stunt.
At the time of the accident, Dina L. Moakley was 16-years-old and in the 11th grade. Having been on the cheerleading squad since the 9th grade, she had previously practiced and performed the stunt at issue numerous times beginning in the 10th grade. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was being assisted/spotted on both her left and right sides as well as behind and the team coach, Melissa Mehling, was watching nearby.
Her accident occurred when, while in the raised position, she concededly lost her balance and began to fall before the coordinated dismount could be achieved.
She sued the Carle Place Union Free School District to recover for personal injuries she sustained.
The defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff Moakley assumed the risk of injury from a fall and that there was no breach of defendants’ duty to supervise the adequacy of the matting.
The court wrote, “As a cheerleader experienced in performing the stunt(s) at issue as well as others, plaintiff clearly assumed the risk of falling (Rendine v. St. John’s Univ., 289 AD2d 465, 735 N.Y.S.2d 173; Fisher v. Syosset Cent. School Dist., 264 AD2d 438, 694 N.Y.S.2d 691).”
One of the key issues was the plaintiff’s contention that because a mat was provided and Moakley “fell beyond the mat, she cannot be found to have knowingly assumed the risk of making contact with the hard gym floor instead of the mat.
“…Assuming for purposes of this motion that plaintiff did land off the mat, the court agrees that she could not reasonably be expected to have foreseen such a landing as the stunt was begun from the center of the mat, and she had three spotters present.
“However, and for these same reasons, this court finds that defendants have established, prima facie, that they did not breach any duty by failing to provide additional safeguards against such a remote risk. In other words, ‘plaintiff’s injury was not the consequence of a failed duty of care on the part of [defendants]’ (Rendine v. St. John’s Univ., supra).”
In any event, “[t]he injury in this case, in sum, was a luckless accident arising from the vigorous voluntary participation in competitive interscholastic athletics) (Benitez v. New York City Bd. of Educ., supra, at p.659).”
Moakley v. Carle Place Union Free School District; S.Ct.NY, Nassau Co.; No. 8543/06; Lexis 6878; 9/6/07
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiffs) Thomas S. Russo of Edelman, Krasin & Jaye, PLLC. in Carle Place, NY. (for defendants) Lynne B. Prommersberger of Congdon, Flaherty, O’Callaghan, et al. in Uniondale, NY.


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