How New York State’s Indoor Smoking Ban Has Led To An Uptick In Bowling Alley Lawsuits

In one corner, you’ve got your run-of-the-mill bowling alley. You’ve probably been to one, so you know the drill — everyone’s got to wear those darling bowling shoes. In the other, you’ve got New York State’s ban on smoking indoors. Put those two things together and you’ve got an uptick in lawsuits against bowling alleys.

If you’re having trouble making the connection, picture this: It’s a rainy Friday night and a smoker goes outside to have a quick puff in between turns. He keeps his bowling shoes on and steps outside and oops-a-daisy, slips and falls. Cue lawsuits.

The state’s bowling alley proprietors say they’ve seen an increase in plaintiffs “bowling for dollars” with these slip-and-fall lawsuits ever since New York banned indoor smoking in 2003, reports Albany’s Times Union.

State legislators are trying to change that with a proposal that would require bowling centers to post signs warning customers of the dangers of wearing slippy-soled bowling shoes outside, because while some bowling alley operators try to discourage people from taking the shoes outside, not everyone listens.

But the bill isn’t a sure thing, however, as organizations like the state’s Trial Lawyers Association say it would be too broad of a protection against lawsuits.

“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 has been here before, which could provide a good model for New York’s legislators. Over there, lawmakers compromised with trial lawyers by changing the bill so that it only covers rental shoes, as well as adding very detailed wording about how unsafe it can be to get the shoes wet.

On that note, don’t wear your ice skates outside the rink, people. Those blades don’t work quite as well on the sidewalk.

Proposal right down their alley [Albany Times Union]


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