Sciarrotta v. Global Spectrum, et al., 2008

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In 2003, Denise Sciarrotta attended a professional hockey game at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, New Jersey. During the pre-game warm-up period, when each team used as many as twenty-five pucks, an errant puck struck a goal post, flew above the Plexiglas and hit Ms. Sciarrotta, causing her to sustain injuries. In Sciarrotta v. Global Spectrum, et al., 2008 N.J. Lexis 314 (2008), the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed two aspects of the limited duty rule, a specialized standard of care applied to sports venues because of the unique risk posed by objects leaving the field of play. Previously, in Maisonave, the Supreme Court created an exception to the limited duty rule for those patrons who were not “spectators” at the time of the accident or who were otherwise engaged in one of the sports arena’s commercial ventures. However, in Sciarrota, The Supreme Court found that the Limited Duty rule applies to pre-game activities, rejecting the argument that there are differing levels of distraction (depending on whether a game is in progress), and that the Limited Duty rule does not encompass a Duty To Warn, labeling the danger a “self-evident risk.”

Impacts of the decision include the extension of Limited Duty of Care to pre-game activities, which may open the door for an application of the rule to promotional and marketing activities that take place on the field of play (T-shirt launches), the dismissal of arguments that take into account the level of distraction during a game, and the skepticism surrounding the imposition of the Duty of Warn of a self-evident risk. Finally, the Sciarrotta decision is noteworthy because the Limited Duty rule has inspired strong opinions and a vigorous debate, even within the New Jersey Supreme Court.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Carla Varriale, Havkins Rosenfeld Ritzert & Varriale, LLP | Attorney Advertising

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