Hawley Troxell Ennis & Hawley partner David W. Knotts and attorney William K. Fletcher, both DRI members, recently prevailed before the Idaho Supreme Court on an appeal by the plaintiff following the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the defense. The case of Griffith v. Jumptime Meridian, LLC involved a 17-year-old plaintiff who suffered fractures to his C6 and C7 vertebrate after improperly landing a triple flip into a foam pit at the defendant’s trampoline court facility. The plaintiff’s injuries required him to undergo a two-level fusion in his cervical spine with the installation of hardware. The plaintiff filed suit against Jumptime, alleging that it had negligently caused his injury, and specifically, that because the plaintiff was a minor, Jumptime had a duty to supervise him.
Prior to the plaintiff’s injury, he had been intentionally landing on his back during a number of double front flips into the foam pit. The plaintiff had been gaining the height and momentum to complete the flips by using a trampoline runway that led to the foam pit. The plaintiff testified at his deposition that he made the conscious decision to land on his back “because you don’t want to land on your feet because you can bash your head on your knees.” The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s in-house rules required that participants land on their feet, and that the facility’s trampoline court monitor had a duty to enforce this rule. After landing a number of double front flips on his back without incident, the plaintiff, without warning, attempted to perform a triple front flip onto his back. However, the plaintiff under rotated this flip and landed on his neck, which resulted in his injury. The plaintiff contended that because the trampoline court monitor had not previously admonished him from landing on his back, he had not been discouraged from attempting the more difficult triple flip. The plaintiff also contended that various signs on the wall and instructional materials telling patrons how to land in the foam pit established the standard of care.
After conducting much discovery and disclosing the opinions of a trampoline court expert regarding the standard of care for landing in a foam pit and supervision at a trampoline court facility, the defense moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the defense’s motion, holding that the plaintiff had failed to produce any evidence of negligence and causation. The Idaho Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment, holding that the plaintiff did not produce any evidence that landing onto one’s back was dangerous (and in fact, had introduced contrary evidence through the plaintiff’s testimony that landing one’s back was safer than landing on one’s feet). The court stated that, as a result, there was no evidence that the defendant was in any way responsible for the plaintiff’s decision to attempt the triple flip, and therefore, there was no evidence before the trial court regarding causation. The Idaho Supreme Court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that he was entitled to the reasonable inference that, had the defendant’s trampoline court monitor interceded when the plaintiff had been performing his double front flips, he would not have felt emboldened to attempt the triple flip.
Following the court’s written decision, the plaintiff moved for reconsideration, which the court summarily denied.
Mr. Knotts is a partner at Hawley Troxell Ennis & Hawley who practices in general litigation, construction defect litigation, amusement and leisure industry litigation, insurance law, and alternative dispute resolution
Mr. Fletcher has been an attorney been in practice since 2008, and maintains a general litigation and insurance defense practice. He also devotes a portion of his practice to criminal defense in state and federal court.
To learn more about DRI, an international membership organization of attorneys defending the interests of business and individuals in civil litigation, visit dri.org.
© 2017 DRI. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the DRI weekly e-newsletter The Voice on May 31, 2017