Sports Law • Risk Management

Latest Ice Skating Appellate Court Case

It was surprising and disappointing when Borders Bookstores closed because of bankruptcy last September. What new business would take Borders’ place at my local mall in Kaneohe, Hawaii? A few days ago, the question was answered---an ice skating rink! Well, it appears that the rink is temporary. I investigated and discovered that a very small ice skating rink has been installed and when I walked in the building, not a soul was skating. I wonder whether a Zamboni would even fit on such ice and how they are going to keep the ice maintained and whether there is sufficient ventilation in the former bookstore’s space. Keep in mind that Hawaii only has one other ice skating rink to my knowledge, which is on Oahu. This is not a place where ice skating is customary.

My quick legal research of ice skating cases uncovered a February 2011, Court of Appeals of Texas case, Smith v. Moody Gardens, Inc., 336 S.W.3d 816 (Tex.App. 2011), in which an ice skater brought a negligence action against an ice skating rink operator after he was injured on the rink.

The facts of the case were as follows. Moody Gardens operated an ice skating rink for a limited time during the winter season, which provided open sessions to the public during the afternoon and evening. They would resurface the ice once before each of the two sessions. However, the standard industry practice is to resurface the ice once every hour. Plaintiff took his family to skate at the rink. During the skating session, Plaintiff fell on rough and bumpy ice, claiming that his right blade hit a groove in the ice, causing the fall. As a result of the fall, Plaintiff sustained injuries and filed a lawsuit against Moody Gardens. There was an applicable Ice Skating Rink Statute, listing the duties of an ice skating rink operator, including providing rink monitors, inspecting and maintaining the ice rink, inspecting and maintaining equipment, complying with risk management guidelines, posting the duties of ice skaters and spectators, posting appropriate signage and maintaining liability insurance.

The jury found that Plaintiff’s fall was not proximately caused by any failure of Moody Gardens to inspect and maintain the ice skating surface in good condition, which was the only allegation that Plaitniff made in relation to the Ice Skating Rink Statute. The skating rink operator prevailed.