248 F.3d 1150 (6th Cir. 2001), 00-3105, Mohney v. USA Hockey, Inc.

Docket Nº:00-3105.
Citation:248 F.3d 1150
Party Name:Levi MOHNEY, Mary Mohney, and Timothy Mohney, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. USA HOCKEY, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:March 01, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 1150

248 F.3d 1150 (6th Cir. 2001)

Levi MOHNEY, Mary Mohney, and Timothy Mohney, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

USA HOCKEY, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 00-3105.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 1, 2001

Editorial Note:

This opinion appears in the Federal reporter in a table titled "Table of Decisions Without Reported Opinions". (See FI CTA6 Rule 28 and FI CTA6 IOP 206 regarding use of unpublished opinions)

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Before BOGGS and MOORE, Circuit Judges, and BELL, [*] District Judge.

OPINION

MOORE, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiffs, Levi Mohney, and his parents, Timothy and Mary Mohney, appeal the district court's judgment granting summary judgment in favor of all defendants in this action arising out of a paralyzing injury to Levi which occurred during an ice hockey scrimmage. The Mohneys also appeal the district court's partial grant of defendants' motions to strike and denial of the Mohneys' motion to compel discovery and motion for sanctions. We AFFIRM the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants Jason Reneger and USA Hockey, the Central States Hockey League, and the Toledo Cherokees (these three hereinafter referred to as the "hockey defendants"). We REVERSE the district court's grant of summary judgment to Bauer and Karhu (hereinafter referred to as the "manufacturer defendants") and REMAND to the district court to allow the Mohneys' product liability claims to proceed. Finally, we AFFIRM the district court's partial grant of defendants' motions to strike and denial of the Mohneys' motion to compel and motion for sanctions.

I

The plaintiffs are Levi Mohney and his parents, Timothy and Mary Mohney. The defendant USA Hockey, Inc., a/k/a Amateur Hockey Association of the United States, Inc., is the national governing body for amateur hockey; Central States Hockey League ("CSHL") is a regional arm of USA Hockey; and the Toledo Cherokees, Jr. Club, d/b/a Toledo Cherokees, is a Junior B Level amateur hockey team comprised of players between sixteen and twenty years old and is a USA Hockey member team. Jason Reneger, a player for the Toledo Cherokees is also a defendant in this action. The manufacturer defendants are Cooper of Canada, Ltd., n/k/a Bauer, Inc., and Jofa Facemasks, d/b/a Karhu USA, Inc., which manufactured the helmet and facemask, respectively. During a scrimmage held on May 21, 1995, Levi crashed into the boards of the rink as he and Reneger were racing for a loose puck. Levi suffered a paralyzing injury which left him a quadriplegic. He was seventeen years old at the time of his injury and one week short of his eighteenth birthday.

Levi was a participant in an ice hockey "development camp" held by the Cherokees on May 20-21, 1995 in Sylvania, Ohio. He was playing on the "white" team and the defendant Reneger was playing on the "red" team. One of Levi's teammates shot the puck past the red team's "icing line" (this line marks an area at the opposite end of the rink where the red team protects its goal), in a situation known as "icing the puck." USA Hockey rules provide that when the puck crosses the opposing team's icing line, an automatic icing call is made followed by a face-off. During the development camp, however, the Cherokees elected to play by the National Hockey League ("NHL") rule known as "touch icing" whereby a player from the team which shot the puck past the opposing team's icing line can prevent an adverse icing call by gaining control of the puck first. A player from the opposing team can also cause an adverse icing call by being the first to "touch" the puck. Under the NHL "touch icing" rule, players from both teams have an incentive to gain control of the puck first. By contrast, under the USA Hockey "automatic icing" rule, this incentive vanishes because once the puck has crossed the icing line, an adverse icing call will automatically be made.

During the scrimmage on May 21, 1995, both Levi and Reneger were competing with each other to gain control of the puck. Levi cut in front of Reneger and eventually Reneger was positioned immediately behind Levi. The two players headed quickly towards the boards. Upon impact with the boards, Levi crumpled to the ice. At the time of this collision, Levi was wearing a helmet manufactured by Bauer and a facemask produced by Karhu. When Levi's helmet and faceguard crashed into the boards, a clip holding the faceguard broke off.

On September 5, 1994. Levi and his father, Timothy Mohney, both signed a form, "USA Hockey Individual Membership Registration 1994-95" which contained the following provision:

Release of Liability/Acknowledgment of Risk

Upon entering events sponsored by USA Hockey and/or its member districts, I/We agree to abide by the rules of USA Hockey as currently published. I/We understand and appreciate that participation or observation of the sport constitutes a risk to me/us of serious injury, including permanent paralysis or death. I/We voluntarily and knowingly recognize, accept, and assume this risk and release USA Hockey, its Affiliates, their sponsors, event organizers and officials from any liability therefore.

J.A. at 284 (Registration Form). The form continued, "Read Above Before Signing. All Participants MUST sign and date this form. If player is 17 years of age or younger the parent/guardian must print and sign their name and date the form." J.A. at 284 (Registration Form). Levi and Timothy Mohney signed similar USA Hockey Registration Forms for 1991-92, 1992-93, and 1993-94. See J.A. at 285-87 (Past Registration Forms).

On May 21, 1997, the Mohneys filed this suit to recover for Levi's physical injuries. Levi's parents also bring claims for loss of consortium, and the Mohneys raise product liability claims regarding the Bauer helmet and Karhu faceguard. The district court entered a Case Management Order on October 22, 1997 limiting discovery to issues concerning the validity of the release and the issue of assumption of the risk. All defendants moved for summary judgment and the district court entered judgment in their favor on December 14, 1999. The district court also granted in part the hockey defendants' motions to strike and denied the Mohneys' motion to compel and motion for sanctions. The Mohneys timely filed their notice of appeal.

II

  1. Motion to Strike

    We review the district court's "decision to grant or deny a motion to strike for an abuse of discretion, and decisions that are reasonable, that is, not arbitrary, will not be overturned." Collazos-Cruz v....

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