Sports Law • Risk Management

October 21, 2010: Assumption of Risk: T.J. Lavin's BMX Bike Crash

Following a tragic bike accident in Las Vegas last week, T.J. Lavin, a BMX biker, is still in a doctor-induced coma, according to yesterday’s report from People. On a qualifying run at a Las Vegas event, Lavin was unsuccessful in getting his feet back on his pedals and was knocked unconscious after he landed hard on the ground (ESPN Action Sports, Oct. 18, 2010). The risk associated with sport is what makes an activity exciting and challenging, but risk can be frightening for the host of a competition. When an incident like this happens the question is whether or not the venue would have a defense if it were sued over an incident like the one with Lavin. In a jurisdiction that allows the assumption of risk defense, a venue might be able to avoid liability.

Assumption of risk is a defense that can be raised by those facing claims of negligence. In all sports there are inherent risks: some known, yet some unknown. An athlete must appreciate the known ordinary risks of a sport in order for an athlete to be considered as having assumed the risk.
For example, a biker in an assumption of risk jurisdiction should know there is a risk of falling when attempting a jump or a trick on a course. Provided that a BMX course does not have an unknown risk of harm and is not extraordinarily dangerous, a venue being sued for negligence may be successful in a jurisdiction that allows the assumption of risk defense to be raised.