Brief Fact Summary.
Smollett and her husband, Leonard, went to a fundraising event at a skating rink owned by Defendant. At the rink, there were not any guardrails. Smollett and her husband asked Defendant why there were not any guardrails, and Defendant responded that it was for safety reasons. Nonetheless, Smollett, an experienced skater, decided to skate in the rink. When she was skating, a young child fell in front of her. To avoid collision, Smollett turned and fell onto the carpet surround the rink. Smollett and her husband brought suit against Defendant. The jury ruled in Smollett’s favor, but not for Leonard. Defendant motioned for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, a new trial, which the trial judge denied. Defendant appealed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
When a plaintiff voluntarily participates in conduct, after becoming aware of the risk involved, the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury and the defendant no longer owes a duty of care to the plaintiff.
On February 1981, Helene Smollett and her husband, Leonard, (collectively, Plaintiffs) went to a fundraiser at a skating rink owned by Skayting Development Corporation (Defendant). The skating area was raised about three to five inches above the surrounding floor space, which was carpeted. The skating area did not contain any guardrails. When Plaintiffs questions Defendant about the lack of guardrails, Defendant responded that the new rinks were regularly built without them as a safety precaution, such as Defendant wanted to avoid the guardrails from becoming loose and collapsing. Around the skating rink were signs, which stated,“skate at your own risk.” Smollett was an experienced skater, so she chose not to take the lesson that the fundraiser was offering. Also, the rink was extremely crowded; however, many of the skaters appeared to be young and/or inexperienced. After Smollett skated for about 90 minutes, on her last lap, a child fell in front of her. To avoid a colliding with the child, Smollett turned off of the rink and onto the carpet, causing her to break wrist. Plaintiffs brought suit against Defendant on the grounds that Defendant was negligent. Defendant asserted a defense, claiming Plaintiffs assumed the risk of injury. The jury found for Smollett, but not her husband. Also, the jury decided that Smollett was 50 percent liable, thus her damages should be reduced under the applicable comparative negligence statute. Following the verdict, Defendants motioned for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, a new trial, and the judge denied the motion. Defendant appealed.
Does a plaintiff assume the risk of injury and the defendant no longer owes a duty of care to the plaintiff when a plaintiff voluntarily participates in conduct, after becoming aware of the risk involved?
Yes, a plaintiff assumes the risk of injury and the defendant no longer owes a duty of care to the plaintiff when a plaintiff voluntarily participates in conduct, after becoming aware of the risk involved?
A motion for judgment as a matter of law may be granted only if the record is critically deficient of that minimum quantum of evidence from which a jury might reasonably afford relief.View Full Point of Law
To properly satisfy the assumption of the risk defense, the defendant must establish that the plaintiff voluntarily accepted the risk once she knew and reasonably appreciated the risks dangers. In this case,the jury reasonable found that Smollett did not assume the risk because she did not reasonably or fully appreciate the risk because as she chose to skate after being informed by Defendant that the lack of guardrails was for safety purposes.
When a plaintiff voluntarily participates in conduct, after becoming aware of the risk involved, the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury and the defendant no longer owes a duty of care to the plaintiff. In this case, Smollett assumed the risk, which bars her from recovery from Defendant. She voluntarily decided to skate in the rink even though she knew that there were no guardrails, she knew children and inexperienced skaters were present in the rink, and she knew the surrounding areas were of different surfaces and elevations. Therefore, the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion is reversed, and the trial court must enter judgment in Defendant’s favor.