Client’s Motion for Summary Judgment Granted in Significant Personal Injury “Belly-Flop Gone Wrong” Case

This motion was brought in a personal injury case arising out of injuries the plaintiff sustained while participating in a belly-flop contest at a racing event in the California desert. The belly-flop contest required participants to perform a belly flop from a scaffolding platform into an above-ground pool that had been erected at a booth for one of the race’s sponsors. The plaintiff entered the contest and decided to perform a backflip into the pool rather than a straight-forward belly-flop during both the first and second rounds of competition. This didn’t end well for him though, as he collided face-first with the side of the pool during his second jump and suffered significant injuries to his face, jaw, and teeth.

He thereafter sued the vendor that created and ran the belly-flop competition as well as our client, Hammerking Productions, which produced and managed the 7-day-long racing event at which the belly-flop contest took place. We moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff signed and agreed to three separate liability waivers pertaining to his participation in activities at the racing event and, irrespective of the waivers, was aware of and assumed the risks involved in participating in the belly-flop contest.

Plaintiff opposed the enforceability of the waivers of liability, arguing that such waivers can only apply to claims of ordinary negligence, while he had submitted a claim for gross negligence. However, the court agreed with Hammerking, and found that there was no triable issue as to gross negligence since Hammerking was not involved in the actual management or organization of the belly-flop contest. One of the waivers therefore effectively barred the plaintiff’s claim. The court further ruled that, in any case, the plaintiff assumed the risk of hitting the side of the pool by choosing to participate in the belly-flop contest.

June 17, 2020