Court Permitted Student to Sue His Church-Operated High School for Injuries in Football Game

On Church Property or During Church Activities

A New York court permitted a student injured in an intramural tackle football game sponsored by a church-operated high school to sue his school.

The game was an annual, informal contest between students that was officiated by instructors from the school. No protective equipment was provided. The injured student alleged that the school failed to properly supervise the game and to provide the necessary protective equipment.

The court concluded that the evidence was "sufficient to allow a jury to conclude that the failure to equip [the injured student] with shoulder pads was a proximate cause of his resulting injury." The court also rejected the school's claim that the student should not be allowed to recover since he had voluntarily "assumed the risk" of injury by playing tackle football without pads.

While this may be true where participants "expressly" assume a risk, it is not necessarily true, in the State of New York, when there is only an "implied" assumption of risk. Voluntary participation in an athletic contest, without more, amounts to only an implied assumption of risk that is not a complete bar to recovery in the event of an accident. It is, however, a factor to be considered in assessing fault. Locilento v. John A. Coleman Catholic High School, 523 N.Y.S.2d 198 (1987)

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