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Lemaster v. Grove City Christian School

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

November 7, 2017

Hayden Lemaster et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Grove City Christian School et al., Defendants-Appellees.

         APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas TYACK, P.J. C.P.C. No. 15CVC-07-6435

         On brief:

          Brian Harter, for appellants.

          Weston Hurd LLP, W. Charles Curley and Kaitlin L. Madigan, for appellees.

         Argued:

          Brian Harter.

          W. Charles Curley.

          DECISION

          TYACK, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Hayden Lemaster ("Hayden"), Heidi and Brian Lemaster, plaintiffs-appellants, appeal from the judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in which the court granted the motions for summary judgment filed by Grove City Christian School ("GCCS") and Sean P. Swank ("Swank"), defendants-appellees.

         {¶ 2} In April 2009, Hayden was a sixth-grade student at GCCS. Swank was the head football coach for the middle school football team. Heidi and Brian Lemaster are Hayden's parents. On April 9, 2009, Hayden was participating in an out-of-season football conditioning program overseen by Swank. After the main conditioning program was completed, Hayden was performing a squat lift, which involves squatting down while a barbell loaded with weights rests on the shoulders. Hayden weighed approximately 97 pounds. Although the actual weight on the barbell was disputed, the trial court accepted the amount indicated in the complaint-200 pounds total-for purposes of summary judgment. It was also somewhat disputed whether Swank instructed the athletes to "max out"-an attempt to lift their personal maximum weight one time-or the athletes themselves decided on their own to attempt to max out after the main conditioning program was over. Swank denies he told them to max out and claims the athletes decided themselves to do so. Hayden did not indicate whose idea it was in his testimony, but another athlete who was present indicated in a sworn statement that Swank instructed them to max out. For purposes of a summary judgment motion, the recollection of the other student should have been accepted.

         {¶ 3} Swank and other students "spotted" Hayden by standing near him to lift the weights off of Hayden if he could not complete the lift. Hayden completed the squat lift unassisted. However, Hayden testified that when the weight came off his back, he felt pain in his spine, felt dizzy, and suffered pain in his legs. Hayden informed Swank that he had hurt his back and Swank told Hayden he did not have to complete a run afterward. However, Hayden decided to run. Hayden then participated in some after-school activities at the school with his family. Hayden later discovered that he had compression fractures of his spine, apparently as a result of the 200 pounds being loaded on his shoulders.

         {¶ 4} On July 28, 2015, appellants filed a complaint alleging Swank was liable because he had Hayden perform the squat lift, and GCCS was liable for Swank's conduct pursuant to respondeat superior. Hayden's parents alleged claims for loss of consortium. On June 2, 2016, appellees filed two motions for summary judgment, one relating to Hayden's claims and one relating to the claims of Hayden's parents. On July 22, 2016, the trial court granted summary judgment to appellees on all claims raised by all parties. Appellants appeal the trial court's decision asserting the following assignments of error:

[I.] The Trial Court erred in granting summary judgment since there is clearly genuine issues of material fact that Coach Swank's conduct was a reckless disregard for the safety of others when he intentionally instructed members of the 7thgrade football team, including Plaintiff-Appellant, Hayden Lemaster, a 98 pound, 6th grade student with zero weight lifting experience, to "max out" on the squat lift and/or attempt a squat lift with an excessive amount of weight on the first day of training in the weight room when he knew or had reason to know facts which would lead a reasonable man to realize that his conduct created an unreasonable risk of physical harm.
[II.] The Trial Court erred in failing to restrict the application of Marchetti v. Kalish, 1990, 53 Ohio St.3rd 95, since serious injuries such as compression fractures to the spine should not be an assumed or accepted risk likely to occur to 6th and 7thgraders learning the basics of ...

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