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Hornyak v. Pomfret School
United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
783 F.2d 284 (1986)
Florence Hornyak (plaintiff) was 15 years old and training for a position on the crew of Pomfret School (defendant). After one to two and a half hours of rowing, she observed and then participated in an exercise known as the Harvard step test for the first time. The Harvard step test required a group of girls to simultaneously and quickly step up on and down from a 16-inch-high bench, repeating the process for two minutes. Hornyak testified that during the test she felt an unsteadiness, meaning that the bench did not feel solid, that she felt vibrations and general wobbling, and that after 30 seconds she fell off the bench onto the ground, injuring herself. Hornyak sued Pomfret School for negligence in how it conducted the Harvard step test as part of its crew training. Hornyak submitted a photograph of the bench on a somewhat uneven surface of a field into evidence. One girl, in a group exercising immediately before Hornyak’s group, also lost her balance and fell backward. The sole supervisor of the Harvard step test was the crew coach, who usually tested the step-test bench for stability but did not remember testing the bench’s stability on the day in question. In addition, the coach did not see the first girl fall nor did he see Hornyak fall, because he was looking at a stopwatch and counting cadence. Furthermore, there were no spotters to catch or support someone if she fell. The trial court granted a directed verdict in favor of Pomfret School. Hornyak appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Coffin, J.)
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