38 Cal. 4th 148
• Plaintiff community college baseball player sued defendant rival community college for negligence. The California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Five, reversed a trial court’s judgment sustaining the rival college’s demurrer, concluding that Gov. Code, § 831.7 did not extend immunity to claims predicated on the negligent supervision of public school athletes. The rival college petitioned for review.
• The player’s team was playing a preseason road game against the rival college’s team. During the game, the player was hit in the head with a pitched ball. The player alleged the pitch was an intentional beanball or was thrown negligently. He also alleged the rival college was negligent in failing to summon or provide medical care for him when he was obviously in need of it, failing to supervise and control its team’s pitcher, failing to provide umpires or other supervisory personnel to control the game and prevent retaliatory or reckless pitching, and failing to provide adequate equipment to safeguard him from serious head injury.
• The court concluded that § 831.7′s immunity protection did not extend to injuries sustained during supervised school sports, including participation in an intercollegiate baseball game. However, on the facts alleged, the rival college, as the host school, owed no duty to the visiting team’s player to prevent the home team’s pitcher from hitting batters, even intentionally. Thus, the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk barred any claim predicated on the allegation that the rival college’s pitcher negligently or intentionally threw at the player.
• Primary assumption of the risk arises when, as a matter of law and policy, a defendant owes no duty to protect a plaintiff from particular harms.
• Applied in the sporting context, it precludes liability for injuries arising from those risks deemed inherent in a sport; as a matter of law, others have no legal duty to eliminate those risks or otherwise protect a sports participant from them. Under this duty approach, a court need not ask what risks a particular plaintiff subjectively knew of and chose to encounter, but instead must evaluate the fundamental nature of the sport and the defendant’s role in or relationship to that sport in order to determine whether the defendant owes a duty to protect a plaintiff from the particular risk of harm.
• Coparticipants in sporting activity have a duty not to act recklessly, outside the bounds of the sport, and coaches and instructors have a duty not to increase the risks inherent in sports participation.
• In interscholastic and intercollegiate competition, the host school and its agents owe a duty to home and visiting players alike to, at a minimum, not increase the risks inherent in the sport.
• The appellate court’s judgment was reversed.
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