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Trampolines, Premises Liability, and Assumption of Risk in New York

Recent reports by organizations such as the American Association of Pediatrics have warned about the dangers of home trampolines. The association’s report indicated that roughly 75% of trampoline injuries occur when multiple people attempt to use the trampoline at the same time. If you are injured on a trampoline located on someone else’s property, you may have a case for compensation under a claim of premises liability. The defense may argue that you assumed the risk by using the device, but that argument may not necessarily prevent recovery, as one New York City woman’s successful lawsuit recently demonstrated. As with all potential premises liability-related injuries, it is important to contact an experienced New York premises liability attorney right away to get started working on your case.

The trampoline owners were Jeffrey and Debra, who lived in Saratoga County with their nine-year-old son. One day, the boy and his Aunt Judi (Jeffrey’s sister) were playing on the trampoline. Judi had never been on a trampoline before. It did not end well, and the 48-year-old woman suffered multiple fractures in her left foot. The injury caused her to undergo multiple surgeries to insert an implant and fuse together some of her joints.

The woman sued her brother and sister-in-law for her injuries in a premises liability action. She contended that the parents were negligent in supervising the boy, whose actions of “double-bouncing,” or jumping out of unison with his aunt, caused her foot injuries. The parents, in their defense, argued that the woman had “assumed the risk” of potential injury when she chose to get on the trampoline.

Assumption of the risk is a legal doctrine that says that, if you’re injured as a result of certain activities in which you were a willing participant, you are not entitled to recovery for your injuries. New York law has three kinds of “assumption of the risk.” There’s primary, express, and implied. Primary assumption of the risk often relates to things like a football player who breaks his leg in a game as a result of a football play.

Express assumption of the risk involves situations in which there was something put into writing. If, for example, you signed a waiver form before you entered a water park and then became injured on a water slide, the court might find there was express assumption of the risk. The key to winning a case like that, as an injured plaintiff, is proving that the agreement was invalid, inapplicable, or unenforceable.

Implied assumption of the risk does not prevent an injured person from recovering compensation. A jury can still award an injured person damages even if it finds that the plaintiff implicitly assumed the risk.

The homeowners argued that the judge should give the jury an instruction on primary assumption of the risk. The judge instead gave the jury an instruction about implied assumption of the risk. Judi prevailed and received an award of $800,000 for past and future pain and suffering.

The homeowners appealed, but they lost. The Appellate Division explained that defendants may only use the theory of primary assumption of the risk to avoid liability in very narrow circumstances. It should be limited to things like “personal injury claims arising from sporting events, sponsored athletic and recreative activities, or athletic and recreational pursuits that take place at designated venues,” the court’s opinion stated. Judi’s accident did not fall within those boundaries, so the trial judge’s jury instructions were correct, and the verdict in Judi’s favor stood.

Winning your premises liability case may require overcoming strong contentions by the defense. To give yourself a strong chance of success, retain skilled counsel. The diligent Queens premises liability attorneys at Newman, Anzalone & Newman have been helping injured people for many years. To schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified attorneys, contact us toll-free at 877-754-3099 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Injured New York Woman Allowed to Pursue Premises Liability Case After Falling Due to Yard Defect, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, Sept. 20, 2017

NY Appellate Division Reinstates Jury Verdict in Favor of Subway User who Fell on Unlit Staircase, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, June 28, 2017

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