In 2013, Helena Shear, a season ticket holder for the New Orleans Hornets (now known as the Pelicans), was run over by Portland Trail Blazers forward James Edward Hickson, Jr., while attending a game at the Smoothie King Center. Shear suffered serious injuries, including a broken leg and a concussion.
Shear sued the Hornets, the Trail Blazers, Hickson, the State of Louisiana, and the stadium management company SMG/Facility Management of Louisiana, alleging that the defendants were negligent in failing to take adequate safety measures to protect spectators from being injured by players chasing loose balls.
The defendants all moved for summary judgment, arguing that Shear had assumed the risk of injury by attending a basketball game. The district court denied the motions, but the Louisiana Court of Appeal reversed and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.
The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal's decision. It held that Shear had assumed the risk of injury by attending a basketball game and sitting in courtside seats. The court noted that the back of Shear's tickets stated that "the holder of this ticket voluntarily assumes all risk and danger of personal injury (including death)."
The court also found that the defendants were not negligent in failing to take adequate safety measures to protect spectators from being injured by players chasing loose balls. It noted that the rules of basketball allow players to chase loose balls out of bounds and that injuries to spectators can occur. The court held that the defendants did not have a duty to take any additional safety measures to protect spectators from this risk.
The Louisiana Supreme Court's decision in Shear's case is based on the legal doctrine of assumption of risk. Assumption of risk is a principle of law that states that a person who voluntarily exposes themselves to a known risk cannot hold others liable for injuries that result from that risk. In the context of sporting events, assumption of risk means that spectators are aware of the potential for injury and choose to accept that risk when they attend the event. Spectators can take steps to protect themselves from injury, such as sitting in seats that are further away from the action, but they cannot expect the teams or the stadium operators to eliminate all risk.
The outcome of this case is a reminder of the risks that fans assume when attending live sporting events. While teams and venues have a duty to provide a safe environment for spectators, there is no guarantee that injuries will not occur. If you are injured at a sporting event, it is important to consult with an attorney to discuss your legal options.
If you or someone you know has been injured at a sporting event, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams today. Contact us today so we can assess and discuss your case and help you determine the best course of action.