Smoking ban leads to rise in bowling shoes lawsuits

Posted By Kristen Butler,  |  May 24, 2013 at 3:08 PM
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Since New York's indoor smoking ban took effect in 2003, slip-and-fall lawsuits have been on the rise, especially at bowling alleys.

When smokers step outside when it's raining or snowing, leather-soled bowling shoes can become slippery, increasing the risk of injury. Some bowling alleys try to curb the problem by letting bowlers keep their street shoes with them so they can leave rental shoes inside.

A bill sponsored by Republican state Senator Pat Gallivan would require bowling centers to post signs warning patrons that it's dangerous to go outdoors in bowling shoes, according to the Times Union.

But the move to shield bowling alleys and their insurers from litigious New Yorkers drew objections from the state Trial Lawyers Association. "We cannot support any legislation that undercuts the constitutional right to a trial by a jury," the association's President Michael Jaffe said in a statement.

Illinois passed a similar measure in 2009. Bowling centers there also faced opposition by trial lawyers, but ultimately narrowed the language of the bill to cover rental shoes only, and added specific wording about the perils of wet shoes.

Bill Duff, executive director of the Illinois Bowling Proprietors Association said the trial lawyers easily dwarf the size and power of bowling center operators.

Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, attributes the "plague of frivolous lawsuits" to the fact that New York has twice the number of lawyers per capita, about 84 per 10,000 people, than the national average of 40 per 10,000.

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