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Athlete Assumed the Risk in Accident Rendering Him Paralyzed
Description High school student, during unsupervised volleyball team warmups, suffered paralysis from the chest down when he tried to dive over the net and landed on his head. Jury award against school district of $14.9 million reversed. Student assumed the risk of horsing around in violation of school rules.
Topic Torts
Key Words Assumption of the Risk, Ordinary Care
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts High school senior, Jose Barretto, attempted to dive over a volleyball net onto a mat he placed on the other side. Barretto caught his wrist when diving over and landed on his head, leaving him paralyzed. He sued, claiming the school was negligent for not providing constant supervision during athletic activities. At the time of the accident, before practice began, the coach had left the gym to get some equipment and had told the players not to horse around. The jury apportioned the fault as 20 percent plaintiff's and 80 percent school district. A second jury empaneled to determine damages, awarded Barretto $18.8 million, of which the New York City School Board was responsible for $14.9 million. School appealed.
Decision Reversed. This event had not occurred before and it is not unusual for a coach to have to leave students unsupervised for short times. "School boards are not required to protect student athletes from the risks inherent in the sport or the activity in which they are engaged. Nor does reasonable care impose upon a school board the obligation of assuring the safety of a student during after- school athletic activities against the consequences of this own independent and ill-advised acts unrelated to the sport in which he is engaged. ...The evidence shows that plaintiff himself created the peril and, aware of the danger, assumed the risks of his conduct."
Citation Barretto v. City of New York, 655 N.Y.S.2d 484 (Sup.Ct., App. Div., 1st Dept., 1997)

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