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Gerante v. 202 Sports Complex, LLC

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Worcester

June 10, 2019

CYNTHIA GERANTE & another [1]
v.
202 SPORTS COMPLEX, LLC.

          Heard: April 3, 2019.

         Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on August 23, 2016.

         The case was heard by Susan E. Sullivan, J., on a motion for summary judgment.

          Kristen Jay Patria for the plaintiffs.

          David P. Bodanza for the defendant.

          Present: Milkey, Neyman, & Englander, JJ.

          MILKEY, J.

         On June 19, 2015, plaintiff Cynthia Gerante was at an indoor sports facility in Orange watching her thirteen year old son play dekhockey (an organized form of what is commonly known as street hockey). After the game concluded, Gerante fell from the bleachers and tore a ligament in her knee. She then brought a personal injury action in Superior Court alleging that the operator of the Orange facility, defendant 202 Sports Complex, LLC (202 Sports), negligently failed to secure the bleachers properly. Gerante's husband joined as a plaintiff to press a claim for loss of consortium. 202 Sports moved to dismiss the action on the ground that it was immune from liability pursuant to G. L. c. 21, § 17C, the so-called recreational use statute. Treating the motion as one for summary judgment, a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of 202 Sports and dismissed the complaint.[2] On the plaintiff's appeal, we affirm.

         Background.

         The Orange facility is owned by the Hunt Family Trust (trust). 202 Sports operates the facility under an oral lease with the trust, and the two entities have overlapping management, with the trustee of the trust serving as a member of 202 Sports. Without challenge by the plaintiffs, 202 Sports averred that -- through its leasehold with the trust -- it "had an interest in the dekhockey premises" in Orange.

         Another member of 202 Sports is Chris Housser, who serves as co-manager of that entity. Housser also is the president of Leominster Dekhockey Center, Inc. (Leominster Dekhockey), which operates a dekhockey facility in Leominster. In 2015, he organized a dekhockey tournament to be played at various "rinks," including those in both Leominster and Orange. The plaintiffs paid a fee to Leominster Dekhockey so that their son could participate in the tournament. The son played goalie for a dekhockey team known as the Snipers.

         On June 19, 2015, tournament games were being hosted at the Orange facility. Housser "personally supervised the setup of the dekhockey rink at that location." Transportation was not provided by the Snipers, the league, or either facility, and therefore Gerante herself drove her son to the game. She then stayed to watch the game, observing it from the top level of the bleachers. Her complaint characterizes her role there as that of a "spectator." An affidavit she submitted in opposition to 202 Sports's motion additionally averred that she "supervised" her son at the game, without providing detail of what that meant. It is undisputed that the Snipers had a coach and an assistant coach, and that there were referees officiating the game.

         Spectators were welcome at the dekhockey tournament held at the Orange facility, and they were not charged an entrance fee to watch the game. The only payment that Gerante alleges that she made in connection with the Orange facility was the fee that she and her husband paid to Leominster Dekhockey in order for their son to play in the tournament.[3]

         D ...


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