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COA reverses summary judgment for NCAA on negligence claim

May 22, 2013

A woman who was injured at a fencing event at the University of Notre Dame should have been granted more time to present relevant materials in opposition to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s motion for summary judgment on her negligence claim, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

Lydia Lanni was struck in the left eye by a fencing saber, causing a severe injury, while she was at an allegedly NCAA-sanctioned fencing match at Notre Dame. The NCAA denies that it was involved with the match. She sued alleging negligence by the NCAA. It filed a motion to dismiss and/or motion for summary judgment. The NCAA attached the affidavit of Kelly Whitaker Shaul, the NCAA’s fencing championships manager, to its motion.

Lanni sought an extension to respond to the NCAA’s motion, arguing discovery was still ongoing. The trial court granted the NCAA’s motion to stay discovery pending the ruling on the motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the NCAA’s motion for summary judgment.

Lanni argued that she hadn’t received any notice that the trial court would treat the combined motion as a summary judgment motion and that she had a lack of opportunity to conduct discovery.

In Lydia Lanni v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, et al., 49A05-1208-CT-392, the judges found that the trial court’s treatment of the NCAA’s motion for summary judgment was proper because evidence outside the pleading was presented and not excluded by the trial court. But, the conversion from a Trial Rule 12(B)(6) motion to a Trial Rule 56 motion requires the trial court to give all parties reasonable opportunity to present all pertinent material.

The NCAA argued that Lanni’s discovery requests were nothing more than generic form requests, but the “NCAA’s self-serving interpretation of what issues are ‘material’ to the cause should not be prevailing,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote. “Here, the NCAA’s motions, granted by the trial court, effectively prevented Lanni from conducting any discovery, let alone any reasonable discovery.”

The judges also found the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Lanni’s request to strike Shaul’s affidavit. White it might contain some generalized statements, they are nevertheless credible and clearly based on personal knowledge stemming from the position she holds, and as such are admissible evidence.

The case is remanded for further proceedings.

 

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