Primary assumption of the risk arises when, as a matter of law and policy, a defendant owes no duty to protect a plaintiff from particular harms. Applied in the sporting context, it precludes liability for injuries arising from those risks deemed inherent in a sport; as a matter of law, others have no legal duty to eliminate those risks or otherwise protect a sports participant from them. Under this duty approach, a court need not ask what risks a particular plaintiff subjectively knew of and chose to encounter, but instead must evaluate the fundamental nature of the sport and the defendant's role in or relationship to that sport in order to determine whether the defendant owes a duty to protect a plaintiff from the particular risk of harm.
Plaintiff, a community college baseball player, sued defendant, a rival community college, for negligence. The player’s team was playing a preseason game against the rival college’s team when during the game, the player was hit in the head with a pitched ball. The player alleged the pitch was intentional or was thrown negligently. He also alleged the rival college was negligent in failing to provide medical care for him when he was in need of it, failing to supervise and control its team’s pitcher, failing to provide umpires or other supervisory personnel to control the game and prevent retaliatory or reckless pitching, and failing to provide adequate equipment to safeguard him from his head injury. At the trial level, the rival college demurred, contending it was immune from liability, and the trial court dismissed the action. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s judgment and thus it was brought to the Supreme Court.
Whether the doctrine of primary assumption of risk applies when the injured player voluntarily participated in the supervised school sports game in which he was hurt?
The court concluded that California’s §831.7’s immunity protection did not extend to injuries sustained during supervised school sports, including participation in an intercollegiate baseball game, but that the rival college, as the host school, owed no duty to the visiting team’s player to prevent the home team’s pitcher from hitting batters, even intentionally. Additionally, the player’s complaint established he voluntarily participated in the baseball game, so his consent barred any battery claim as a matter of law. Thus, the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk barred any claim predicated on the allegation that the rival college’s pitcher negligently or intentionally threw at the player.The appellate court’s judgment was reversed.