Tuesday, January 27, 2009
In a case previously covered in the blog of the Wall Street Journal, the Wisconsin Supreme Court today held that a cheerleader who was injured in a pregame warmup exercise may not sue another member of the squad or the coach for negligence. The court concluded that a Wisconsin statute provided immunity because cheerleading is a physical activity involving contact, i.e., a sport:
This case presents the following three issues: First, is Bakke [the teammate-defendant] immune from a negligence suit arising out of an incident that occurred while he was participating as a cheerleader at Holmen High School. We conclude that, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 895.525(4m)(a) (2005-06), Bakke is immune from liability because he was participating in a recreational activity that includes physical contact between persons in a sport involving amateur teams. Second, did the circuit court err when it concluded as a matter of law that Bakke was not reckless? We conclude that the circuit court did not err when it concluded as a matter of law that Bakke was not reckless. Third, we must determine whether Wis. Stat. § 893.80(4) provides the school district with immunity for the alleged negligent acts of the cheerleading coach. We conclude that the school district is immune because no ministerial duty was violated by the cheerleading coach and there was no known and compelling danger that gave rise to a ministerial duty.
A concurring opinion by Justice Abrahamson agrees with the ultimate conclusion that cheerleading may be considered a sport for the purposes of the statute. (Mike Frisch)