• Minor Defendant Found to Have Breached No Duty to Minor Plaintiff in Sports Related Injury
  • February 20, 2015 | Author: Betsy G. Ramos
  • Law Firm: Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. - Mount Laurel Office
  • Children sometimes are injured when playing sports with other kids. The issue decided by the Appellate Division in the published case of C.J.R. v. G.A, 2014 N.J. Super. LEXIS 165 (App. Div. December 8, 2014), is what standard should be applied in determining whether the minor breached any duty owed to the injured minor in the context of a playing a sport together.

    In C.J.R., the minors were playing in a Medford youth lacrosse team. With less than 20 seconds remaining on the clock, and the ball nestled in the basket of his stick, a Medford player (the plaintiff) was struck on the forearm by an opposing player (the defendant) on the Marlton team. The blow knocked the Medford player to the ground and he sustained a fractured left arm.

    The Medford player sued the Marlton player. The defendant filed for a summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court. The trial court found that, even viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, in the context of this youth sports injury, the facts failed to support a cause of action.

    The Appellate Division affirmed, finding that the minor defendant breached no legal duty in causing the minor plaintiff’s sports related injury. In reaching this conclusion, the Appellate Division enunciated a two-layered analysis for the court to apply in determining if there was liability for the injury. First, whether the opposing player’s injurious conduct would be actionable if it were committed by an adult, based upon sufficient proof of the defendant’s intent or recklessness and, second, whether it would be reasonable in the particular youth sports setting to expect a minor of the same age and characteristics as defendant to refrain from the injurious physical contact.

    In this case, after reviewing the facts, the appeals court found that, at the very least, the second query had to be answered in the negative. Thus, there was no need to examine the first prong and summary judgment was appropriately granted.

    Here the minor plaintiff was 12 years-old, while the minor defendant was only 11 years-old. The minor plaintiff was also about 14 pounds heavier and about 2 - 4 inches taller. The plaintiff contended that the defendant charged him and violated the rules of the game by approaching him on his blind side and engaging in what is known as a disallowed “take-out check.”

    The Appellate Division, in following its analysis, noted the defendant was playing in a league of less experienced players. He was only 11 years old at the time of the incident. Although he may have committed a foul, the contact had to be considered in context. The game was close, time was running down, and his team could not tie or win the game unless they got the ball back. There was no proof of any prior enmity between these 2 players.

    Based upon these facts, the Appellate Division found that the facts of this case did not rise to the level of recklessness that would make an 11 year-old novice lacrosse player monetarily liable for his misguided actions on the field. The appeals court noted that, while the minor plaintiff’s injury was regrettable, it was one of those unfortunate occasional consequences of minors playing in a rough and tumble sport.