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To establish a claim under the doctrine of respondeat superior, it must be demonstrated that a principal-agent relationship exists, and that the agent commits tortious conduct while in the scope of his agency.
Appellee Brian Hanson sustained a paralyzing injury while playing in a lacrosse game between Ohio State University ("OSU") and Ashland University, Inc. ("Ashland") at the Ashland lacrosse field, when Ashland defendant William Kynast twisted and threw appellee off his back. After discovering the seriousness of appellee’s injury, an assistant trainer for Ashland was sent to telephone the fire department for an ambulance. Upon arriving on the scene, the ambulance driver discovered that the main entrance to the playing field was blocked by an illegally parked automobile. Appellee brought an action against Kynast and Ashland, alleging that the university was liable for Kynast’s alleged wrongful acts under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Appellee also alleged that Ashland was negligent in allowing the ambulance entrance to the lacrosse grounds to be blocked. The trial court granted Ashland’s motion for summary judgment, holding that no agency relationship existed between Kynast and Ashland, and that Ashland did not have a legal duty to have an ambulance at the game. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment, holding that genuine issues of fact existed on the question of agency and upon Ashland's duty to provide medical personnel at the game. Ashland appealed.
On further review, the court held that no agency relationship existed between the university and defendant Kynast, who attended the university without a scholarship or compensation, voluntarily participated in games for which no attendance fee was charged, purchased his own equipment, was instructed but not otherwise controlled by the coach, and participated in the game as a part of his total educational experience while attending school. According to the court, the relationship between students and the universities they attend was contractual. The student would pay a fee and would agree to abide by the university rules. In exchange, the university would provide the student with a worthwhile education. The court further held that the university was not negligent in allowing the ambulance entrance to be blocked. The court noted that in order to establish negligence, the claimant must prove the existence of the following elements, (1) a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, (2) a breach of this duty by the defendant, and (3) that the plaintiff's injuries were a proximate result of the defendant's conduct. In this case, the court held that no damages proximately resulted from the university’s alleged wrongdoing. Accordingly, the judgment of the appellate court, which reversed the summary judgment for defendant university, was reversed.