Vol. 12, No. 2,856W - The American Reporter - March 18, 2006

Make My Day

by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
Syracuse, Indiana

SYRACU.S.E, Ind. -- It's rare and even shocking for me to say this, but I found a stupid lawsuit where I think the plaintiff mayactually have a point. Yes, I know, I was just as amazed as you are. A frivolous lawsuit where the plaintiff's own stupidity was not the only cause for injury? Amazing, but true! Read on.

According to the March 15, 2002 issue of the Denver Post Online,Ryan Netzer of Avon, Colo., is suing the Colorado Avalanche hockey team for injuries he suffered during a "human hockey puck" event on December 13, 2000. Specifically, Netzer is suing for negligence, breach of duty to act with the highest degree of care, premises liability, and willful and wanton conduct.

It seems that Netzer willingly climbed aboard a metal sled, and was flung across the ice by a giant bungee cord during the intermission stunt. He slammed into the boards and fractured two bones in his leg. Netzer required two operations to repair the damage. However, there was no indication whether the word is actually spelled "bungee" or "bungie."

In the lawsuit filed March 13, 2002, Netzer and attorney Joseph Bloch claim the Avalanche, Kroenke Arena Company, and Kroenke Sports were negligent because they failed to installprotective padding along the boards. The reason for the oversight? Thepadding was damaged after it fell from a truck earlier that day.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants "... were fully awarethat there was a high risk of injury to the participants," especiallysince the padding wasn't installed. Although Netzer signed a waiver, heand his attorney are saying it should be thrown out because Netzer didnot know the wall padding was missing.

Look at that first sentence again. Netzer and Bloch say there was a high risk of injury, especially since the padding wasn't installed. In other words, there was a high risk of injury already, but the risk was higher since the padding was missing.

This leads me to two questions: First, how badly do large piecesof foam have to be damaged so they're no longer functional? Second, howhard is it to look across a hockey rink and say "Hey, shouldn't there besome pads there? What happened to those big pads you told me about? I'mpretty sure somebody said the walls would be padded."?

Netzer says that he has received "severe permanent injuries" asa result of his misadventure, so he is seeking unspecified damages tocover his medical expenses, plus additional punitive damages.Translation: "I need money to pay my doctor bills, and then I want alittle extra to retire on, because I'm obviously blind too."

Not surprisingly, the Avalanche are denying all responsibilityfor the mishap, and will probably stand behind Netzer's signed waiver toprotect themselves. But I think they need to bear some of theresponsibility. This isn't so much an intermission publicity stunt as one ofthose stunts that usually involves consumption of mass quantities ofalcohol, and usually starts with the words "Hey y'all, watch this!".This is a case where the Colorado Avalanche fired Rocket Ryan toward a wall made of wood and plexiglass, without so much as a roll of toiletpaper between him and certain death. Hockey players have been seriouslyinjured from being slammed against the boards by other hockey players(that's what makes hockey fun to watch), so why would they want to firesomeone at an even faster speed toward those same walls without padding?

But more importantly, how does padding get damaged by fallingoff a truck anyway? It's padding! Did it shatter on impact? Didit become misshapen and grotesque after falling four feet from the backof the truck? Regardless of what kind of shape the padding was in, theAvalanche should have put it up anyway. Wrap it in duct tape, for God'ssake, Or just put the icky side against the wall!

Don't let Netzer off without some finger-pointing though. Heneeds to share some of the responsibility too. Remember, Netzer's claimis that the organizers knew there was a high risk of injuryespecially since the padding wasn't installed. This means heshould have reasonably known there was a risk already. The fact that hedid not see big giant pads to protect him from the high-speed impact ishis own fault.

In liability lawsuits, judges and lawyers often refer to "theReasonable Person." The Reasonable Person is boring. You would not wantto take this person on a date or even out for coffee. He or she will not participate in most everyday activities because they want to beabsolutely sure that everything is safe. Think of an uptight,anal-retentive Ralph Nader.

In this case, the Reasonable Person would have asked theorganizers if the walls were padded, and how thick the padding was. The Reasonable Person would have then gone over to the walls and inspectedthe padding, making sure they were thick enough to safely stop him and the speeding sled. And then the Reasonable Person would have politely declined, and gone home to watch "Sewing With Nancy," and drink herbal tea with his 37 cats.

Obviously Ryan Netzer was anything but reasonable: "Dude, you'regonna put me on a sled and hurl me from this giant bungie cord towardthat wall? Fire it up, baby!"

Maybe I'm a little boring and overly cautious, but when it's my own safety, I'm not willing to be slung, flung, thrown, hurled, shot, or fired out of anything, regardless of what the padding is. People get injured doing all kinds of stupid stuff, whether it's a promotional event, publicity stunt, or drunken test of bravery. So I stand firm in my conviction to never put myself in harm's way through my own stupidity or someone else's.

I'm still not sure if it's spelled "bungee" or "bungie," though.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter