TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

N.J. Hockey Arena Not Liable for Stray Practice Puck

The New Jersey Law Journal (via reports on a decision last week by the New Jersey Supreme Court upholding the sports venue "limited duty rule," which applies to objects leaving the field (or ice as the case may be) and entering the stands.   The court held that the limited duty rule applies to pre-game "warm up" activities, but that the arena did not have a separate duty to warn.   

The majority only briefly addressed Lovett's separate argument that Global Spectrum should have provided written warnings to fans about the dangers of flying objects prior to the game's start. He said requiring a warning would create a two-tiered duty of care not contemplated by the New Jersey Baseball Spectator Safety Act of 2006, enacted after the Maisonave ruling. The statute extends the limited duty rule at baseball parks to pre-game activities. 

Justices Virginia Long, Barry Albin and John Wallace Jr. dissented in an opinion written by Long. They said the limited duty rule requires arena owners and operators to warn fans of the potential dangers. "Indeed, it makes no sense to devolve on the arena owner a duty to provide protected seating while keeping patrons in the dark over their right to request it," Long wrote.

And so, if the arena provides screened seating to protect seats ordinarily at risk, there's no liability when say a puck flies off the ice during warm-ups and strikes you.

A copy of the decision is available here.


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