Assumption of Risk

Assumption of risk is a legal doctrine under which a person cannot recover for an injury that he received when he had voluntarily exposed himself to a known danger. Assumption of risk is generally asserted as an affirmative defense by a defendant who is being sued for negligence and it generally bars recovery by the plaintiff because no duty of care was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff as to the known inherent risks.

Example: Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee participated in a martial arts competition. Both knew of the dangers involved in the competition. Both made it to the finals and during the final fight, Chuck Norris severely injured his wrist while attempting to punch Bruce Lee. Chuck Norris later sues Bruce Lee for negligence. In his answer, Bruce Lee asserts the affirmative defense of assumption of the risk. The court will very likely dismiss the case because Chuck Norris voluntarily entered into the competition knowing the inherent dangers.

“[Assumption of risk] has been a subject of much controversy, and has been surrounded by much confusion, because ‘assumption of risk’ has been used by the courts in several different senses, which traditionally have been lumped together under the one name, often without realizing that any differences exist. There are even courts which have limited the use of the term ‘assumption of risk’ to cases in which the parties stand in the relation of master and servant, or at least some other contractual relation; but they have been compelled to invent other names for other cases, such as ‘incurred risk,’ or ‘volenti non fit injuria.’ This appears to be largely a distinction without a difference; and most courts have made general use of the one term . . . In its most basic sense, assumption of risk means that the plaintiff, in advance, has given his express consent to relieve the defendant of an obligation of conduct toward him, and to take his chances of injury from a known risk arising from what the defendant is to do or leave undone.” W. Page Keeton et al., The Law of Torts § 68, at 480-81 (5th ed. 1984)

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