Valley View Seeks Dismissal Of Lawsuit Over Fatal Football Accident

December 26, 2018

An attorney for the Valley View School District seeks dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the family of a football team volunteer who died after a player ran into him on the sideline during a game.

Attorney Richard Polachek of Wilkes-Barre contends the district is immune from the lawsuit filed in connection with the Sept. 30, 2016 incident that caused the death of Anthony Cantafio. Even if a judge finds immunity does not apply, the suit must still be dismissed because Cantafio knowingly assumed the risk he could be injured.

Cantafio, 67, was a volunteer statistician for Scranton Prepatory school’s football team. He was injured after a Valley View player being chased by a Scranton Prep player ran into him during a game at Valley View’s John Henzes Memorial Stadium. Cantafio fell backwards and struck his head on an asphalt surface surrounding the field. He died from his injures on Oct. 10, 2016.

Cantafio’s widow, Joanne, filed suit in June, alleging the district and the architect and contractor that worked on a 2006 stadium renovation were negligent because the asphalt was too close to the turf.

The suit, filed by Kingston attorney Harry P. McGrath Jr., says the buffer between the turf and asphalt is 12 feet, two inches. That’s in violation of the 15-foot standard set by the National Federation of State and High School Associations and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, the suit says.

In addition to the district, the suit names as defendants Highland Associates of Clarks Summit, the architecture firm that designed the renovation project, and S.G. Mastriani Construction Management Inc. of Scranton, the general contractor.

In the motion to dismiss, Polachek says the district is immune from liability under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, which protects government bodies from lawsuits except under limited circumstances.

The lawsuit alleges the district falls into an exception relating to the care, custody and control of real property. Polachek contends that exemption does not apply because the architect was responsible for the design. Prior courts have held government bodies cannot be held liable for the negligence of a third party, he says in the motion.

In the alternate, Polachek says the district is protected by the “no-duty doctrine” that applies to spectators attending sporting events. The doctrine says an entity has no duty to warn or protect spectators from a risk that is expected or foreseeable.

“Mr. Cantafio was aware that he knowingly exposed himself to perceivable injuries which could result from voluntarily placing himself on the sideline, just a few feet from where a full contact football game was taking place,” Polachek says in the motion.

Frank Nofer of Conshohocken, attorney for Highland Associates, also filed a motion seeking to strike from the complaint allegations the company acted recklessly.

Nofer argues Cantafio must show Highland had knowledge of facts that would create a high risk of physical harm. The Cantafio incident was a “freak accident,” he said, that was not foreseeable.

Lackawanna County Judge James Gibbons heard arguments on the motions last week. He took the matter under advisement and will issue a ruling at a later date.

Contact the writer: tbesecker@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9137; @tmbeseckerTT on Twitter

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