Supreme Court of Nebraska Affirms Court’s Ruling that Release Shielded University from Athlete’s Lawsuit Arising from Weight Room Injury
The Supreme Court of Nebraska has affirmed the ruling of a lower court, finding in favor of Concordia University, which had been sued by a college athlete, who suffered an injury in the University’s weight room. In so ruling, the high court agreed that the waiver the student-athlete and his mother signed “was valid and enforceable and relieved the [U]niversity of liability for its ordinary negligence.”
Concordia, a private institution in Nebraska, recruited Konrad Sinu (the student-athlete) to play for the University’s intercollegiate men’s soccer team. The University provided the student-athlete with both athletic and academic scholarships. Before the student-athlete moved to Nebraska from his home in England, he signed an “Assumption of Risk and Waiver of Liability Release.” Since the student-athlete was 18 years old at the time, his mother also signed the release.
Roughly five months after arriving at the University, the student-athlete and his soccer teammates engaged in a mandatory strength and conditioning workout at the University’s Walz Human Performance Complex (the Walz). The workout involved circuit training, in which the teammates moved from one exercise station to another in small groups. One station consisted of an exercise referred to as the “face pull.” In the exercise, an elastic resistance band was secured to a squat rack post and was pulled toward the user’s face. During the course of the workout, teammates altered the band’s placement from how a university employee originally set it. When the student-athlete approached the squat rack, he observed the resistance band resting on a “J-hook” of the squat rack. As he performed the face pull exercise, the resistance band slid off the hook and caused injury to his eyes.
Thereafter, the student-athlete and his mother sued the University, setting forth a cause of action for negligence. The University asserted numerous affirmative defenses in its responsive pleading. One defense alleged that the claim was barred by the release signed by the student-athlete and his mother. Another defense alleged that the claim was barred by the doctrine of assumption of risk. Some four months prior to the discovery deadline, the University moved for summary judgment.
Approximately two months later and prior to the hearing on the University’s motion, the student-athlete and his mother moved for leave to file an amended complaint. They hoped to add allegations that the University’s willful and wanton or grossly negligent actions caused the student’s injuries. But the district court denied the motion to amend, finding an amendment would be “futile.”
In considering the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the district court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that …
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