SPORTS INJURY: 11-YEAR-OLD NOT LIABLE FOR BREAKING OPPONENT’S ARM
A child inflicts a sports injury on another child. Must he or his family pay the victim compensation? An appeals court in New Jersey recently decided the question.
In the court case, a boy we’ll call George and a boy we’ll call Chuck were lacrosse players in a youth league. George was 11 and Chuck was 12. They played on opposite teams. Twenty seconds remained in a game. George took a running start and blindsided Chuck with an illegal “takedown” check. Chuck suffered a broken arm.
Chuck’s father sued George and George’s father. Chuck’s father claimed that George’s father should have to pay for Chuck’s medical bills, pain and suffering.
A court case with similar facts had never taken place in New Jersey. The trial judge tossed the case out of court. Chuck’s father appealed. The appeals court first had to decide what the legal standard would be.
HERE’S WHEN A CHILD IS LIABLE FOR A SPORTS INJURY
The court decided that a child causing a sports injury would only be held legally responsible if the victim could prove two things. First, that an adult would have been responsible for the same conduct in an adult sports setting. Second, that it would be reasonable to expect a child of the same age as the accused to not do the same thing.
The court assumed, for argument’s sake, that if an adult did what George did, the adult would be legally responsible. However, the appeals court still found against the victim. It found that George, as an 11-year-old boy, could not be expected to understand the consequences of his action.
In reaching its decision, the appeals court noted that there was no bad blood between the boys. George was simply trying to win the game. As the court put it, Chuck’s injury was “one of those unfortunate … consequences of … a rough-and-tumble sport.”
The court seemed to say that, if George were older, its decision might have been different.
I respectfully disagree with the court. I think that even an 11-year-old boy should know what a flagrant foul is. If he commit commits one, and another boy is injured, he should be held responsible.
WHAT YOU MUST REALIZE
These types of cases are very fact sensitive. Space limitations do not allow me to discuss every factor that the court stated was important. If your child is ever the victim of a sports injury, you should immediately consult a qualified personal injury attorney. The attorney can tell you whether you have a case.