The civilized world was saddened to learn of the accidental death, during a practice run, of Olympic luge participant Nodar Kumaritashvili.
I have not watched the video of Kumaritashvili flying into a support pillar that held a canopy and lights on the track. The pillar was not padded in case a luge, bobsled or skeleton racer was thrown off course.
The Whistler Sliding Center opened in 2008. The facility was marketed as "faster, steeper and more intense than any track in history". According to many media sources, there have been numerous sled crashes since the facility opened, including some during the Olympic warm ups.
Was this a wrongful death, or had the athlete assumed the risk of this dangerous sport?
An argument can be made that the failure to pad a pillar when it was entirely foreseeable that a luge, bobsled or skeleton racer might leave the track at a high rate of speed was negligent, particularly on this track, where accidents were commonplace.
On the other hand, applying New York law in this instance, pursuant to the doctrine of primary assumption of risk, a participant "engaging in a sport or recreational activity... consents to those commonly appreciated risks which are inherent in and arise out of the nature of the sport generally and flow from such participation" (Morgan v State of New York, 90 NY2d 471, 484 ; see Turcotte v Fell, 68 NY2d 432, 438-440 ; Youmans v Maple Ski Ridge, Inc., 53 AD3d 957, 958-959 ).
Is anyone at fault for this man's death?
Was the track designed to be too fast, too steep or too intense?
Was the track operated as too dangerous to sledders?
Should the pillars adjacent to the track have been padded?
Would padding on the pillars have made a difference in this case?
Did the sledders assume the commonly appreciated risks of their sport on this track?
Was the risk involved on this track more than what was "commonly appreciated"?
Given the history of accidents on this track, this fatal one cannot be dismissed as a "fluke" occurrence; some degree of responsibility needs to be assigned to the party or parties involved.