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Court Holds Minor League Baseball Team Had No Duty to Warn Spectator of Risks in Engaging in Three-Legged Race

Blogs, Risk Management

On March 3, 2010, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division upheld a grant of summary judgment in favor of the Somerset Patriots Baseball Club, an independent minor league club. In an unpublished decision, the Appellate Division held that the team did not have a duty to warn a spectator participating in an promotional three-legged race of the risks of participating in the race. Duncan v. Somerset Patriots Baseball Club, A-4279-08T3. 

In August of 2006, the plaintiff was attending a minor league baseball game and entered his name in a drawing to participate in one of several promotional events to be held during the game, including several races. The plaintiff and several other spectators were selected to enter a three-legged race. Despite coming to an agreement with his race partner as to their “strategy” for the race, his foot slipped when they took their first step and he fell, injuring his knee. 

The plaintiff sued the club, arguing that itwas negligent in failing to maintain the field in a safe condition. He also alleged that he was not warned of the risks inherent in participating in the race, or provided suitable footwear by the team. The plaintiff also argued that the team should have refused to let him participate in the race on account of his excessive weight, or warned him that his weight created a greater risk of injury. The trial judge rejected these arguments and granted summary judgment in the club’s favor, and the plaintiff appealed. 

The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court, noting that the plaintiff had admitted at his deposition to previously running three-legged races. The Appellate Division stated that “walking or running on grass is a common experience, and the risk of doing so with any particular kind of footwear is known equally by the participant.” The court also noted the plaintiff could have withdrawn from the race at any time, yet he chose to continue his voluntary participation. Finally, the Appellate Division held that there was no evidence of a dangerous condition on the field.