Last month, this blog discussed a case involving a teenager’s family suing a local softball league after the girl broke her leg sliding into a base. The family claimed that before the accident occurred, the then-14-year old girl was reluctant to slide, but was urged on by her coach. The girl ended up breaking her ankle, tibia, and fibula. In their lawsuit, the family sued not only the coach, but also the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Softball League, arguing that the girl and others were not properly supervised and that the field did not conform to regulation requirements. While the coach was eventually dismissed as a defendant from the lawsuit, the claims against the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Softball League have remained.
Recently the Softball League filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the girl’s parents were aware of the risks when they let her play and that they were only filing the suit because the girl could not become a nurse, as she wanted to be. Motions for summary judgment are filed after a point in the lawsuit where both sides have conducted “discovery,” or sought evidence that would give weight to either side’s arguments. The party who files the motion for summary judgment is arguing that there is no issue of genuine fact — meaning that there is no dispute requiring a trial — so judgment against the other party should be issued as a matter of law. The one who files the motion is usually the defendant in the case, but it can also sometimes be the party who filed the case.
Here, the West Virginia personal injury attorney representing Martinsburg-Berkeley County Softball League argued that the girl’s family’s argument — that because of her injured ankle, she would not be going to nursing school — was weak and not borne out by the facts. The defendant argued that the girl, now a young woman, “walks all day at school,” drives herself, and does not otherwise consider herself to be disabled. The young woman was on her way to complete her pre-nursing course work and had already been accepted to a nursing school. However, during a final exam, she allegedly dealt with ankle and back pain more severe than expected. A life care expert had previously stated during a deposition that the young woman could have a career as a nurse with physical limitations, which could reduce her potential earnings. The defendant claimed that those earnings were “speculative” since one day of difficulty was enough to make the young woman decide that she could not be a nurse.
The defendant also argued that because at the time the girl had been told by a chiropractor not to do anything strenuous for two weeks to a month, that she went into the softball practice knowing the risk to her physical health.
The outcome will depend upon what arguments the girl’s attorney makes against the motion for summary judgment. The Martinsburg-Berkeley County Softball League’s motion does not appear to address whether the coach was negligent or whether the field was regulation. Generally, motions for summary judgment are very difficult to win because the burden is on the party that brings the motion to prove that there is no dispute worth trying.