New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MARTURANO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-009-113, Claim No. 102282


In this claim, claimant sought damages for injuries he suffered while participating in a basketball game at a gymnasium at the SUNY Oswego campus. Claimant collided with an unpadded wall behind the backboard, and alleged that there was insufficient space between the backboard and the wall, as well as a lack of padding on the wall. The Court found that claimant had assumed the risk of injury by his participation in the basketball game, and that the layout of the gymnasium constituted an open and obvious condition of which claimant was aware of. The claim was dismissed.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
BY: Matthew H. McNamara, Esq., Of Counsel.
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General
BY: Gordon J. Cuffy, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 25, 2003

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This is a claim for personal injuries suffered by claimant Anthony J. Marturano[1]
, who was injured while participating in a basketball game at Lee Hall Gymnasium on the Oswego campus of the State University of New York ("SUNY Oswego").
Claimant testified that on February 22, 2000, he was participating in an intramural basketball game in the Lee Hall Gymnasium, during his freshman year at SUNY Oswego. Although it was a full-court game, games were being played width-wise, so that the gymnasium could accommodate two full-court games simultaneously. Claimant testified that during the course of his game, he attempted a pass which was intercepted by an opposing player. Claimant then pursued the opposing player, and as that player went up for a lay-up, claimant leaped in an attempt to block the shot. His momentum carried him forward, and he collided with the gymnasium wall located behind the basket, sustaining his injuries. Claimant also testified that the wall with which he collided was not covered with any padding at the time of this incident.

Irving Paris, a licensed architect, testified as an expert witness on behalf of claimant. He testified that the unpadded wall with which claimant collided was situated seven feet, nine inches from the backboard. He further testified that based on generally accepted standards, there should have been a minimum of ten feet between the backboard and the wall, and that the lack of padding also violated architectural standards.

It is claimants' contention that the State created a dangerous condition by its failure to provide sufficient space between the backboard and the wall, as well as by its failure to install any padding on that wall, and that this dangerous condition was the proximate cause of claimant's injuries.

The State contends that the proximity of the wall to the backboard, as well as the lack of any padding on the wall, did not constitute a dangerous condition. Furthermore, defendant contends that claimant's participation in this intramural basketball game constituted an assumption of risk.

It is well-settled that a landowner has a duty to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition in view of all the circumstances (
Basso v Miller, 40 NY2d 233). As a landowner, the State is subject to the same standard of care that applies to private landowners (Preston v State of New York, 59 NY2d 997).
Intramural sporting activities involve inherent dangers to the participants (
Scaduto v State of New York, 86 AD2d 682, affd 56 NY2d 762), and participants in such athletic activities consent by means of their participation to commonly appreciated risks inherent in the nature of that sport (Morgan v State of New York, 90 NY2d 471, 484; Turcotte v Fell, 68 NY2d 432, 439). Therefore, in order for a claimant to succeed, he or she must establish that the dangerous condition complained of constitutes a hazard over and above the usual hazards inherent to that sport (Morgan v State of New York, supra).
In this particular case, there can be no question that the unpadded wall situated behind the backboard was open and obvious to claimant. Furthermore, claimant testified that he had played on this basketball court numerous times prior to the day of the accident. He also testified that the play on which he was injured was the type of play that would occur during the normal course of a game. He also acknowledged that running or falling out of bounds during a basketball game is also a common occurrence in the game of basketball.

Based on the testimony presented, the Court finds that claimant was an experienced basketball player who was also very familiar with the basketball court at Lee Hall Gymnasium. The Court must also find that the location of the wall beyond the backboard was an open and obvious condition in the gymnasium, and that the risk of running into this wall during the course of a basketball game was a risk, inherent to the game of basketball, which claimant appreciated and assumed when he chose to participate in the game. This claim, therefore, must be dismissed.

Even though it must dismiss this claim, the Court would be remiss if it did not acknowledge the fine effort made by both counsel in the presentation of this claim. Both counsel are to be commended for the professional and capable manner in which they conducted this trial.

Any motions not heretofore ruled upon are hereby denied.

June 25, 2003
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] The claim of Anthony P. Marturano is derivative in nature. Therefore, all references to claimant, unless otherwise specified, are to Anthony J. Marturano.