2/23/2009Earlier today, the New York Times published an article discussing an equestrian rider's comeback from devastating injuries that he sustained last year when the horse he was riding crashed into a fence, causing him to sustain serious personal injuries, including a traumatic brain injury (as a result of which he was rendered comatose), several broken and fractured bones and a punctured lung. In the wake of this particular incident, as well as the deaths of several riders, significant debate within the equestrian community began as to whether the riders were being provided with adequate safeguards.
While I have no particular interest in equestrian riding (nor, for that matter, do most people that I know), the Times article raises an interesting legal issue. I can't begin to count how many times I have walked onto a basketball or tennis court, or even an ice skating rink and seen a big sign in bold letters proclaiming "PLAY AT YOUR OWN RISK!" I imagine I'm not alone in this experience. The question is, does that sign have any legal significance, or is it merely a cheap ploy to convince those who have been injured while playing that they cannot sue for their personal injuries?
Under New York law, the answer to this question turns on whether the accident was caused by an open and obvious condition, or whether it was caused by a latent defect that the defendant either knew or should have known about. In the former circumstance, such as a slippery bowling alley, the plaintiff will often - but not always - be barred from recovering any money; in the latter circumstance, the plaintiff's lawsuit will usually be allowed to survive dismissal.
The moral of the story? Don't be too quick to believe everything you read.
Category: Slip / Trip and Fall Accidents
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