On February 9, 2018, the New York Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department (Appellate Court) affirmed a lower court’s ruling, which denied Gary Gait and Syracuse University’s motion to dismiss Addy Tauro’s suit. Ms. Tauro, a former varsity women’s lacrosse player at Syracuse University, sued her former coach, Mr. Gait, and Syracuse University after Ms. Tauro was allegedly injured at a lacrosse practice on October 8, 2013. According to Ms. Tauro’s complaint, she was struck in the head with a lacrosse ball that Mr. Gait threw during a drill. As a result, Ms. Tauro sustained a concussion, and three years later she still suffers from concussion related issues. Ms. Tauro claimed that Mr. Gait conduct was both negligent and reckless.
On March 17, 2017, New York Supreme Court Judge James P. Murphy denied Mr. Gait and Syracuse University’s motion to dismiss. Mr. Gait and Syracuse University moved to dismiss Ms. Tauro’s suit on the grounds that Ms. Tauro signed a waiver which “constituted documentary evidence establishing … that the [suit] failed to state a cause of action because [Ms. Tauro] assumed the risk of injury.” Mr. Gait and Syracuse University appealed Judge Murphy’s ruling; however, the Appellate Court affirmed Judge Murphy’s ruling.
According to the Appellate Court, it is true that a person who voluntarily participates in a recreational activity, such as lacrosse, consents to common risks which are inherent in the nature of the sport. However, a person does not consent to risks that were the result of reckless or intentional conduct, nor will a claim be barred where the conditions caused by the defendants negligence are unique and create a dangerous condition above the usual inherent dangers. Therefore, because Ms. Tauro claimed that Mr. Gait’s conduct was reckless, at this stage in litigation, her suit is not barred by the doctrine of assumption of the risk.
Mr. Gait has coached women’s lacrosse at Syracuse University since 2007. His efforts have turned the team into a perennial national title contender. He has two national title appearances and seven Final Four appearances. He is also considered one of the greatest men’s lacrosse players of all-time. He won three national titles as a player at Syracuse University and he also played in the National Lacrosse League from 1991 to 2011.