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12/30/88 Alex Castro, A Minor By v. Chicago Park District Et

December 30, 1988

FRIEND, ZENON CASTRO, PLAINTIFF

v.

CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT ET AL., DEFENDANTS (CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT; EUGENE



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, SECOND DIVISION

ALEX CASTRO, a Minor by and through his Father and Next

Gembara, Third-Party Defendant-Appellee)

533 N.E.2d 504, 178 Ill. App. 3d 348, 127 Ill. Dec. 632 1988.IL.1928

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. William A. Kelly, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

PRESIDING JUSTICE HARTMAN delivered the opinion of the court. SCARIANO and EGAN, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE HARTMAN

This appeal arises from the circuit court's order granting a directed verdict for the third-party defendant in an action for contribution.

On June 4, 1981, Alex Castro, a minor, was hit by a foul ball while seated on the player's bench during a game in St. Barbara's Little League (League) being played at a baseball diamond in McGuane Park, part of the Chicago Park District (Park District). Castro filed suit against the Park District, alleging that it carelessly and negligently designed and built the baseball diamond in that a large, unsafe opening existed between the end of a backstop fence and the beginning of another fence in front of the player's bench.

The Park District filed a third-party complaint for contribution against Eugene Gembara, the president of the League, and Louis Cannova, Castro's team manager. The third-party complaint alleged that there was a careless and negligent failure to make and enforce rules that would have prevented Castro's injury, and that there was negligent supervision of Castro at the time of his injury.

On January 22, 1986, the Park District and Cannova entered into a settlement with Castro. The Park District ultimately proceeded to trial on the third-party complaint, seeking contribution from Gembara.

At trial, Gembara testified that he was the president of the League, which was originally founded by a group of neighbors. Gembara "rejuvenated" the League in 1975, after it had been "dormant for two years," but was not paid for his participation. As president, he purchased equipment for the players in the League, including batting helmets, which were in part intended to protect the players from foul balls. Gembara acknowledged that he had the safety of the players in mind when he purchased the helmets.

In his capacity as president, he received permission to play the League's games at McGuane Park. The Park District provided only the facility. To get players, Gembara advertised among different schools. The ages of the players ranged from 9 to 13 or 10 to 14.

In 1981, Gembara was no longer an active coach. He had a good deal of previous experience in that capacity. He testified that he formulated the rules of the League jointly with other officers and managers; in his deposition, however, he described his role in the League as "more like a dictatorship." He admitted that he maintained a veto power over the selection of the rules, which he characterized as basically for safety. None of the written rules, however, directed where the players were to sit on the bench. Gembara remembered telling the coaches to instruct the players to sit back on the bench away from the gap, but could not recall whether this rule was adopted before or after Castro's injury. He also suggested that there were additional rules not in writing, but understood ...


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