Court Grants Hockey League’s Motion to Dismiss Player’s Injury Claim

Nov 17, 2023

By Courtney E. Dunn, of Segal McCambridge

Plaintiff Connor Dushay was injured during an ice hockey practice when he was playing for a team in the South Connecticut Hockey League (SCHL). Dushay claimed that he was injured during a hockey practice at third-party Defendant Wonderland of Ice’s premises. SCHL maintains that it was not affiliated with this particular practice, because it was outside of SCHL’s control and supervision and, therefore, SCHL owed no duty of care to Dushay. SCHL further relies on the fact that, even if it did owe Plaintiff a duty, it cannot be held liable for Plaintiff’s injuries because they were proximately caused by the intentional act of Plaintiff’s teammate. Plaintiff, however, posits that SCHL owed him a duty because it was responsible for the hockey practice and because third-party Defendant, Wonderland of Ice, was SCHL’s agent or apparent agent in scheduling this practice. 

There is no question that the location of the hockey practice was owned and operated solely by Wonderland of Ice – which presents a problem for Plaintiff’s theory of liability. Regardless of SCHL’s lack of ownership in the premises, Plaintiff argues that SCHL still owed Plaintiff a duty of care because (1) it scheduled the hockey practice or otherwise had an agreement with Wonderland of Ice to act as an agent that allowed SCHL to schedule the hockey practice; (2) made representations to Plaintiff that it was responsible for staffing and overseeing hockey practices; and/or (3) benefited from the practice as a for-profit business and therefore, owed a duty of care to Plaintiff.

To bolster his argument against SCHL, Plaintiff submits a SCHL flyer and a Letter of Agreement between SCHL and Wonderland of Ice. However, the flyer does not reference hockey practices and the Letter of Agreement confirms that Wonderland of Ice would provide ice time for games, but again does not mention practices. The Letter of Agreement does, however, include an indemnity provision in which SCHL would indemnify Wonderland of Ice, which Plaintiff relies on to support his argument that SCHL did have a duty to ensure the safety of players during practice. Unfortunately for Plaintiff, given the context of the Letter of Agreement, this indemnification again only extends to games. 

Plaintiff cites Peeples v. North End Baseball League of Bridgeport, Inc., Docket No. CV-15-6047702-S (October 5, 2016, Krumeich, J.), where the defendant sports league did have a duty of care based on its right to possess the field during the game at issue in that matter. In Dushay, however, the Court found that there was no evidence to support the argument that SCHL had the right to possess the ice rink at issue and, therefore, Peeples was not analogous. It was further confirmed by Wonderland of Ice that it coordinated practices with teams that were in the Defendant League and did so directly on behalf of Wonderland of Ice by reaching out to team players. The only actual connection between SCHL and Wonderland of Ice was the latter’s possession of email addresses for athletes that played in the Defendant League for the purpose of alerting them to the availability of ice time. The Court held that there was no record of an agency relationship between SCHL and Wonderland of Ice. The documentary evidence submitted by Plaintiff, the SCHL flyer and Letter of Agreement, ultimately cut against Plaintiff’s position that SCHL owed him a duty of care.

Next, Plaintiff argues that, because SCHL benefited from the hockey practice, it owed a duty of care to those partaking in the hockey practice. The Court disagreed, holding that absent any evidence of a financial benefit on behalf of SCHL from the ice time provided by Wonderland of Ice, it could not find that SCHL owed a duty to Plaintiff and his teammates. 

Based upon its holding that SCHL did not schedule the practice, was not an agent of Wonderland of Ice, and did not financially benefit from the practice, the Court did not opine on SCHL’s argument that Plaintiff’s injuries were proximately caused by the unforeseeable acts of a third-party teammate. The Court held that SCHL did not owe Plaintiff a duty of care during this practice and thus, granted SCHL’s motion for summary judgment.

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