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Washington State Prisoner Cannot Sue State for Volleyball Injury Caused by Oversized Shoes

On September 21, 2009, the Washington State Court of Appeals held that a prisoner cannot recover damages from the state for injuries she received while playing volleyball in oversized sport shoes issued to her by the state. Tina Armstrong, a former Washington state prisoner, filed suit against the state for injuries she received while playing volleyball in prison. Upon her arrival in the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC), Armstrong was issued a pair of sports shoes. She was given size 10 shoes because the DOC was out of her requested sizes of 8 ½ or 9. When she arrived at her residential unit, Armstrong started playing volleyball. The shoes gave her trouble, but still she played. She requested the right sized shoes and was told she could have them, but it would take two to three weeks for them to arrive. Six days later, the shoes caused Armstrong to trip and fall while playing volleyball. She was injured.

After her release from prison, Armstrong sued. The trial court granted the state's motion for summary judgment based on the doctrine of implied primary assumption of risk. Armstrong appealed.

The court of appeals held that the doctrine bars recovery if "(a) Armstrong had full subjective understanding of the nature and presence of a specific risk, and (b) she voluntarily chose to encounter the risk." Playing volleyball was voluntary. Armstrong knew that the shoes were risky before she suffered the injury and could have avoided the injury by not playing until the proper-sized shoes arrive. Thus, she is barred from recovery. The order granting summary judgment was affirmed.

See: Armstrong v. State, Washington Court of Appeals., No. 62506-3-1I (unpublished)

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Related legal case

Armstrong v. State