Injuries During a North Carolina High School Basketball Game

basketballIn a recent North Carolina appellate case, the court considered injuries to a basketball referee. The case arose while the plaintiff was hired to referee a high school basketball game. The tournament was created by a basketball club, but the high school was managed by the Education Board. The club paid the Board a fee to use their basketball court as the site of the tournament.

Before the day he was injured, the plaintiff hadn’t refereed at that particular gym. As a ref, he had to run along the court while monitoring the participants’ play. He claimed that while running alongside the game, he stepped on a warped part of the floor next to the court. He fell down and experienced an injury to his knee. The plaintiff also claimed that after taking the spill, the other officials advised him they ran around the warpage so that they wouldn’t fall.

The plaintiff sued the club and the Board, as well as the club owners, alleging he’d suffered a ligament tear and fracture, for which he needed surgery and incurred more than $300,000 in expenses. The Board denied the allegations and defended on the basis of failure to state a claim, and then it moved to dismiss. The judge granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice.

The plaintiff and two of the remaining defendants moved for entry of judgment to revise the order so that the matter could be immediately appealed. The plaintiff was only appealing the dismissal of one defendant. In response to the appeal, the Board stated that after filing the appeal, the plaintiff dismissed all of the other defendants, but the record didn’t include any information about the voluntary dismissal. The appellate court agreed to hear the issue.

The plaintiff argued that it was inappropriate to dismiss his case under the rule of statutory immunity, under the rule of immunity for governmental entities, and under the rule of intended third-party beneficiaries. The plaintiff argued that the Board couldn’t show it had followed its own rules when it let the club use the gym, and it had failed to make sure the club possessed liability insurance.

The appellate court disagreed. It explained that a county board of education is a governmental entity and thus couldn’t be sued in tort or for negligence except when it waived its immunity by statute. Under North Carolina General Statute section 115C-524(c), a board was immune from being held liable when injuries were caused to someone involved in a non-school event on school property. No liability would attach based on personal injury because the school entered into a contract with an entity to use school property.

The club had agreed to pay a fee and indemnify and hold harmless the Board in exchange for the use of the gym. No evidence showed that the defendant Board didn’t have insurance for the event or that it didn’t comply with the part of the agreement that required the club to get insurance.

For these and other reasons, the lower court’s dismissal was affirmed.

If you suffered injuries due to the wrongful conduct or negligence of another party, the experienced North Carolina premises liability attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.

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