The Circuit Court for Cecil County has granted a motion for summary judgment filed by ACK on behalf of a Maryland Board of Education in Richardson v. Board of Education, et al . The BOE was sued by Plaintiff Zachary Richardson after he was injured while playing in a summer touch football league in Bear, Delaware. At the time of the incident, Plaintiff's touch football team was coached by his high school varsity football coach. While diving for a football, Plaintiff collided with a teammate. As a result, he suffered injuries to his face and teeth.
Plaintiff alleged that the BOE, his coach, and the football league were negligent for failing to provide adequate safety equipment, such as mouth guards, which, Plaintiff contended, would have prevented his injuries. The BOE argued that, under the doctrine of assumption of risk, Plaintiff was barred from recovering any damages since he and his father were well aware of the risk of injury inherent in sports – particularly football – and thus assumed the risk of injury as a matter of law.
Plaintiff argued that because his injury occurred in Delaware, the law of that state, which is a comparative negligence jurisdiction, was applicable. Accordingly, Plaintiff argued, the issue of Plaintiff's assumption of the risk should be submitted to a jury. The BOE asserted that regardless of whether Delaware or Maryland law applied to the case, Plaintiff was barred from recovering as the assumption of risk defense is a complete bar to recovery in both states. While the analysis of whether a plaintiff assumes the risk is more complex under Delaware law, the outcome is the same. Specifically, Delaware courts apply a “primary” assumption of risk analysis to sporting events/activities which bars a plaintiff's recovery as a matter of law. Plaintiff argued that the “secondary” assumption of risk analysis was proper and therefore, under that analysis, this case must be submitted to a jury.
In granting the BOE's motion for summary judgment, the Honorable John Hennegan determined that Delaware law applied, but that the primary assumption of the risk analysis was applicable. Under this analysis, Judge Hennegan held that the Plaintiff voluntarily encountered a known risk of injury associated with engaging in a sporting event/activity. Accordingly, the BOE was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.