Court Finds Deceased Skateboarder Assumed the Risk of Injury, Preventing Family from Seeking Compensation

Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued an opinion in a case brought by the father of a boy who died after he sustained a traumatic brain injury when he fell off his skateboard after hitting a lip around a manhole cover. In the case, Bertsch v. Mammoth Community Water District, the court held that the doctrine of “assumption of the risk” prevented the boy’s father from successfully seeking compensation for his loss.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff took his two boys on a trip to Mammoth County to enjoy a friend’s condo for a few days. While there, the plaintiff’s sons were out skateboarding around the neighborhood before they were going to meet back up and all go rock climbing. The boys were not performing any tricks, but they did push themselves up a hill so that they could enjoy the long, fast ride down to meet their dad.

Tragically, on the way down the hill, one of the boys’ skateboards hit a lip surrounding a manhole cover, causing the skateboard to come to a complete stop. The young boy flew off the board, striking his head on the pavement as he landed. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and shortly afterward passed away.

The boy’s father filed a lawsuit against the government and several other parties, claiming that they were negligent in the placement of the manhole cover and that this negligence is what caused his son’s death. The defendants asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the young boy assumed the risk of any injury by engaging in the dangerous activity of skateboarding. The court ultimately agreed with the defendants and dismissed the case.

Assumption of the Risk in Maryland

Assumption of the risk is an affirmative defense in Maryland courts, meaning that it can excuse otherwise negligent behavior. In order for the doctrine to apply, the defendant must be able to show that the person injured:

  • Had knowledge of the danger;
  • Appreciated the risks involved; and
  • Voluntarily confronted those risks.

If a defendant is not able to show that each of these elements applied, the defense will fail, and the plaintiff will not be prevented from recovering compensation if he can establish liability. It is important to consult with a dedicated attorney because each of these elements may be hotly contested and can potentially result in the dismissal of an otherwise meritorious case.

Have You Been Injured While Engaging in a Sports Activity?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while engaging in a dangerous sport or sport-like activity, you may still be entitled to monetary compensation. Do not listen to the insurance companies when they tell you that you do not have a claim. Consult with a dedicated attorney to see whether you may be entitled to compensation. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation to go over your case with a dedicated wrongful death attorney. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation on your part unless we are ultimately able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Court Finds Post-Mortem Misconduct Falls under Medical Malpractice Umbrella and Must Comply with Applicable Procedural Requirements, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 1, 2016.

Doctors Must Obtain Informed Consent Before Performing Any Operation or Procedure, Maryland Accident Law Blog, May 9, 2016.

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