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Massachusetts Appeals Court Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of College and Softball Teammate in Player’s Personal Injury Lawsuit

Most Cape Cod personal injury cases are pursued on a theory of negligence. To prove that a defendant was negligent, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty, that the defendant’s conduct breached this duty, and that, as a proximate result, the plaintiff suffered legally compensable damages.

Sometimes, however, a defendant may be accused of conduct that surpassed that of simple negligence in terms of its culpability. This is called gross negligence or recklessness by the courts.

An example of simple negligence might be a defendant slightly exceeding the speed limit and causing a collision. Gross negligence, by contrast, might occur if a defendant was driving while intoxicated and exceeding the speed limit not just by a few miles per hour but perhaps 30 or 40 miles per hour.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a negligence case in which the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently issued an appeal was a member of a college softball team. The plaintiff filed suit against the college and one of her teammates, seeking to recover compensation for injuries that she allegedly sustained during a softball practice session. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s order entering summary judgment in the defendants’ favor. According to the appellate court, ball players like the plaintiff and the defendant teammate did owe one another a duty of care, namely the duty to refrain from reckless conduct; this was true regardless of whether the allegedly tortious conduct took place during an athletic contest or game or during a practice (as was the case here). Such players were not, however, subject to a lawsuit for simple negligence.

The court went on to note that, as a condition of her participation on the college’s softball team, the plaintiff had signed a “participant waiver and release of liability” form. Under the terms of the waiver, the college, its agents, and its employees were released from liability as to “any claims” that might arise due to the plaintiff’s participation in the college’s athletic program. Because of this waiver, the defendants could only be held liable upon a finding of gross negligence or recklessness. In reviewing the factual details raised by the parties in the summary judgment proceedings, the appellate court agreed with the lower tribunal that there were no genuine issues of material fact indicating that the teammate or the college engaged in reckless conduct or gross negligence. Accordingly, the trial court’s entry of summary judgment for the defendants was proper.

Talk to a Cape Cod Attorney

If you have been hurt due to the negligent or reckless contact of another individual, a business, or a governmental entity, you should talk to an attorney about your legal right to pursue money damages for what you have been through. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III at 888-262-6664. Please remember that there is a time limit for filing negligence claims in the state of Massachusetts, so it is important to talk to counsel as soon as possible. We are currently reviewing personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout the Cape Cod area, including Hyannis and Plymouth.

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