Law School Case Brief
Knight v. Jewett - 3 Cal. 4th 296, 834 P.2d 696, 11 Cal. Rptr. 2d 2
In cases involving "primary assumption of risk"--where, by virtue of the nature of the activity and the parties' relationship to the activity, the defendant owes no legal duty to protect the plaintiff from the particular risk of harm that caused the injury--the doctrine of assumption of risk continues to operate as a complete bar to the plaintiff's recovery.
Plaintiff sought review of the Court of Appeals' decision which affirmed a grant of summary judgment for defendant, dismissing plaintiff's personal injury action for negligence during a sports activity. Defendant broke plaintiff's finger in a touch football game and plaintiff sued for negligence.
Whether the Court of Appeals correctly dismissed plaintiff's personal injury action for negligence during a sports activity?
Resolving a conflict in the appeals courts, the court decided the proper application of the assumption of risk doctrine to comparative fault principles. In cases involving primary assumption of risk, where defendant owed no duty to protect plaintiff from the particular risk of harm that cause the injury, the comparative fault doctrine barred plaintiff's recovery in tort. In cases involving secondary assumption of risk, where defendant owed plaintiff a duty of care but plaintiff encountered a risk imposed by defendant's breach of that duty, the assumption of risk doctrine merged into the comparative fault scheme. A sports participant was liable to a coparticipant only for reckless conduct outside the range of that sport's ordinary activity. Plaintiff's claims were dismissed.
The court affirmed dismissal of plaintiff's tort claim for negligence, holding that it was barred by the primary assumption of risk doctrine for ordinary, careless conduct during a sports activity.
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