Judokas spreading the way.
"Whenever a person participates in any sporting event, there is always a chance that the participant could be injured," State Supreme Court Justice Joseph J. Maltese wrote in dismissing a lawsuit against Longview Academy of Extreme Martial Arts in Grasmere and several instructors. "The chance that the participant could be injured is a risk he or she must be aware of before engaging in any sporting activity, especially the martial arts." (Staten Island Advance/Clement Thiery)
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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A Staten Island justice has booted out the million-dollar lawsuit of a young judo student, whose ankle was broken three years ago while trying to block an adult student's takedown maneuver at a Grasmere martial arts academy.
State Supreme Court Justice Joseph J. Maltese ruled that participants -- even as young as 11-year-old Anthony Morales Jr. -- assume the risk of being hurt when they engage in contact sports.
"Whenever a person participates in any sporting event, there is always a chance that the participant could be injured," Maltese wrote in dismissing Morales' lawsuit against Longview Academy of Extreme Martial Arts in Grasmere and several instructors. "The chance that the participant could be injured is a risk he or she must be aware of before engaging in any sporting activity, especially the martial arts."
Morales and his father, also named Anthony Morales, contended the school was negligent by having him practice with an adult student, who was older and heavier.
The younger Morales had trained in the martial arts since he was 5 years old, said court documents. He is now 14.
The incident occurred on Aug. 19, 2010.
The younger Morales, then 11, was training with Sensei Salvatore Della Croce, a second-degree black belt in judo, said court papers. Della Croce saw the elder Morales standing on the side and went to talk to him.
At that point, an older student, who was heavier and taller than the boy was paired up to train with him, said court papers. Those documents do not state the older student's age.
The senior student attempted a foot sweep to the side of the younger Morales' foot, said court papers, The boy tried to block it and suffered an ankle fracture from the contact, court documents state. The foot sweep is a regular judo technique.
The Mariners Harbor resident alleged the school had mismatched him with the adult student and had not properly supervised the training session.
His father, who filed the lawsuit individually and on his son's behalf, sought at least $1.25 million, said court papers.
The academy submitted an affidavit from a judo expert who said pairing an adult student with a minor student during judo drills doesn't depart from any accepted practice, said court papers. He further stated there's no standard practice requiring participants in judo drills to be paired based on height, weight, age or experience.
Maltese noted that contestants in regional, national and international judo competitions are matched by various classifications, such as Juniors (under age 17), Seniors (17 and older), and by Dan ranks (black belt) or Kyu ranks (less than black belt), and by weight, class and sex.
However it's not customary, nor is it required, to match students by size, rank or sex in a training class, he said.
The judge said Della Croce wasn't negligent in standing on the side of the mat while the younger Morales and the adult trained.
"Even if he were on the mat, he could not have prevented the injury, which occurred in the normal course of training," opined Maltese.
To prevail in the lawsuit, the Moraleses would have had to show the defendants created a "unique and ... dangerous condition over and above the usual dangers that are inherent in the sport," the judge wrote, quoting case law.
Brian Masterson, of the East Hanover, N.J. firm, Callahan & Fusco, which represented the academy, said his client is "pleased" with the decision.
"Our client disputed the plaintiff's versions of events, [but] even if you accepted the plaintiff's version, there can't be any liability if it was a sudden or abrupt act that even the most intense supervision couldn't have prevented," said Masterson.
The Morales' lawyer did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment on the ruling.