Middle School Gym Obstacle Course Injury Case Dismissed

In Luis S. v. City of New York, 2015 NY Slip Op 06022 (1st Dept. July 9, 2015), the plaintiff broke his knee after attempting to clear a hurdle which was part of a middle gym class obstacle course. The Appellate Division, First Department reversed a denial of summary judgment to defendants and dismissed the action. The court explained:

In this action alleging negligent supervision in a gym class, defendants established prima facie entitlement to summary judgment dismissing the action against them. Plaintiffs failed to raise a triable issue of fact to refute defendants’ evidence that the infant plaintiff, a seventh grade student, was instructed and shown how to properly navigate the obstacle course in question, which included a two-foot high hurdle. Plaintiff was injured when, after successfully jumping over the hurdle, he suffered a fracture of his right knee upon landing. There was no evidence offered to substantiate the claim that the wooden gym floor was slippery, or that a matted landing area was warranted. Defendants’ unrefuted evidence demonstrated that the other students navigated the hurdle without incident, and that there was no known history of injuries occurring in connection with the obstacle course, which the gym teachers regularly used. Moreover, infant plaintiff’s two gym teachers jointly observed only half a class at a time, as the boys and then the girls of each class attempted the obstacle course. Plaintiffs offered no evidence, aside from speculation, that plaintiff’s injury could have been avoided by having a spotter alongside the hurdle, or a mat on the landing side of the hurdle.

While plaintiff’s complaint was dismissed, the court’s decision is instructive as to what facts might, in an appropriate case, carry the day for plaintiff. The outcome may – but would not necessarily – have been different if (for example) there was a “known history of injuries occurring in connection with the obstacle course”, the floor was slippery, and/or a mat should have been (but was not) used.