Case Synopsis: Plaintiff, age 15 at the time of the incident, was playing “three on three” full-court basketball on an outdoor court at a playground. The defendant city had superimposed the markings of a standard volleyball court inside the perimeter of the basketball court. In addition, the defendant city had permanently placed 3.5 inch diameter metal volleyball poles into the blacktop surface. Thus, the volleyball poles were inside the playing court for basketball. While playing basketball the male plaintiff came in contact with one of the metal volleyball poles receiving injuries to his neck, head, back, and other soft tissues of his body.
Expert Analysis: As their defense, the city argued that the volleyball pole was “open and obvious” to the users. Certainly, the participants had a knowledge of the poles being placed there; however, in the context of any game situation, the participant would be “distracted” and the “distraction theory” or “exceptional theory” would apply to the plaintiff party. Certainly, no one anticipates playing basketball with obstacles within the confines of a court. If the city desired a dual function of the court, metal sleeves/caps in the ground for removable standards would have been the best option. When the court wasn’t utilized for volleyball, the removable poles could be stored. To permanently place volleyball poles within the confines of a basketball court ignores the basic concepts of safety. The imminent danger posed by the volleyball poles should have been obvious to any competent park and recreation official.
Result: Case settled.
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