The risk of sports injuries is inherent in any sport such as football, basketball, soccer, etc. Some sports injuries are avoidable, and injured players may be able to financially recover from the responsible parties. However, it is generally accepted that players may accidentally injure each other during sports games and practices. For instance, two soccer players colliding into each other while running toward the ball may result in injuries to one or both of the players. Players usually don't sue each other if they were hurt by other players while playing a sport. However, earlier this month, the Superior Court of New Jersey (Appellate Division) decided on a case involving an injured player suing another player.
In C.J.R. v. G.A., a 12 year old (minor plaintiff) was seriously injured during a lacrosse game in 2011 when an 11 year old player (minor defendant) from the opposite team allegedly struck him. There were less than 20 seconds left on the clock when the minor plaintiff got the ball. The minor defendant allegedly ran toward the minor plaintiff at full force with his head tucked down and his arms at his side. The minor defendant allegedly hit minor plaintiff from behind across the midsection with his helmet or stick, also striking minor plaintiff's left arm and causing him to fall to the ground. As a result, the minor plaintiff broke his arm and needed an open reduction surgery with a rod inserted into his arm.
The minor plaintiff and his father sued the minor defendant alleging that he acted recklessly and should be held liable under the same tort liability principles governing adults for sports injuries. Under NJ law, adult athletes may be held responsible for causing injuries to another player if they acted intentionally or recklessly. The minor plaintiff and his father alleged that the minor defendant blind sided the minor plaintiff and used a "take-out check" which is not allowed according to the rules of the game.
The court ultimately found the minor defendant not liable and was guided by two types of law in reaching its decision. The court examined NJ case law that established the liability of adults who intentionally or recklessly injure another person in a sporting activity, and it also examined cases that limit the liability of minors, depending on their age and other characteristics.
The court stated, "a reasonable jury could not find the facts of this particular case here rising to a level of recklessness that would or should make this 11-year-old lacrosse novice monetarily liable for his misguided actions on the field." The court ultimately held that the minor defendant could not be held liable for causing injury to the minor plaintiff on account of his age. The court found that the minor defendant's age was critical in reaching its decision. The court also stated that it might have decided differently if minor defendant was 17 and had more of an understanding of the consequences of his behavior.
If you or a loved one was injured in a sports related accident due to someone's negligence, call Daniel J. O'Brien, Esq., a PA and NJ sports injury lawyer, to schedule a FREE consultation. Mr. O'Brien is a life long athlete and has helped numerous athletes after their sports accidents. 877.944.8396