NEW JERSEY APPEALS COURT FINDS ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD LACROSSE PLAYER NOT LIABLE FOR OPPOSING PLAYER'S INJURY

A New Jersey state appeals court recently reviewed the liability of a minor who accidentally injured another minor during the course of a recreational sports game. The three-judge panel held that 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 eleven-year-old lacrosse novice monetarily liable for his misguided actions on the field."

The plaintiff, a twelve-year old from Medford, had been participating in a lacrosse game when the defendant struck him on the arm with his lacrosse stick, causing the plaintiff's arm to break. The boy's father sued the opposing player, alleging that he was liable under New Jersey law which establishes liability for adults who recklessly or intentionally injure other players during the course of a sporting activity. The plaintiff further alleged that the defendant's father should be held liable under a theory of negligent parental supervision.

Both the trial court and the appeals court disagreed with the plaintiff's theory of liability. The suit was initially dismissed by the trial court, with the court finding that "the defendant breached no legal duty in causing the plaintiff minor to sustain this unfortunate sports-related injury." The appeals court agreed, noting in its decision that lacrosse is a full-contact sport, and that injuries are a foreseeable byproduct of participation in such activities.

"We can readily take judicial notice that children, particularly younger children, often need years of training, coaching, and experience to learn and adhere to the rules of a competitive sport. Children will inevitably commit fouls in sporting activities out of inexperience, youthful exuberance, lack of self-discipline, clumsiness, immaturity, frustration, or some combination of those traits," said Judge Jack Sabatino, writing for the appeals court.

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