December 2014 - Parks & Recreation - 24

L AW R E V I E W

Safety Feature Practice Standard in Sport?
By James C. Kozlowski, J.D., Ph.D.

A

s a general rule, coaches/instructors and other individuals and agencies
responsible for conducting sport, recreation and physical fitness programs
owe a legal duty to participants to supply proper and necessary protective
equipment before going forward with an activity. Moreover, if the necessary protective equipment is supplied by the participant or his/her parents, those responsible for conducting the activity have a legal duty to ensure that such self-furnished
protective equipment is reasonably adequate under the circumstances, or provide
alternative protective equipment that is adequate. What protective equipment is
considered necessary or optional may vary with the setting and generally accepted
customs and practices of a given sport or recreational activity.
As illustrated by the case report described herein, the failure to provide
the injured plaintiff with a helmet
and mouthguard may have created a
foreseeable risk of the type of head
and facial injury sustained during the
activity. Accordingly, since football
helmets with attached faceguards and
mouthpieces are used for safety or protective devices, a jury could reasonably
find the failure to supply such necessary protective equipment provided a

22	 Parks & Recreation

basis for negligence liability. Further,
the assumption of risk defense against
a claim of negligence by an injured
participant in a contact sport is limited
to the risk of injury inherent in ordinary play and does not include the risk
of participating in a training drill that
has insufficient protective equipment.
Jaw Breaker
In the case of Sonetti v. Huntington
Beach Union School District, 2014

| D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 4 | W W W. N R PA . O R G

Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7088
(10/1/2014), plaintiff Mark Sonetti
was injured during a high school football kickoff drill. After being struck
from behind by another player, Sonetti lurched forward and struck another
player with his chin, breaking his jaw.
In August 2011, Sonetti had played
football for Fountain Valley High
School for three years. He made the
varsity team in his junior year and was
returning as a varsity player for his senior season. In each of his previous
seasons, helmets and mouthguards had
been used in all fall kickoff coverage
drills. In his deposition, Sonetti testified
that no fall kickoff coverage drill had
ever been run without a helmet. Sonetti admitted, however, that spring drills
were not normally run with helmets.
There was no dispute as to what
the kickoff coverage drill run that
particular Monday was to entail:



December 2014 - Parks & Recreation

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