Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tort Law and Sickening Parents

Though I'm not usually a Rick Reilly fan (his writing often comes off as 'whiney'), I have to say that this article on ESPN is a good one. As someone who has had a personal experience with family in a legitimate personal injury/workers compensation case (faulty wiring on a commercial jetliner electricuting a family member to the point they can no longer work or do many every day activities...yeah tell me about it), nothing sickens me more than frivolous lawsuits. Nothing. I'm with Reilly when he states that he wouldn't be opposed to shooting these people into space.

As a masters student, we were required to take a class in "Sports Law". I don't have much clout to comment on intricate legal details of tort law, but I can say that from what I know, these types of cases are generally not that uncommon. And it's not that uncommon for the plaintiff to win them. Even if a waiver is signed, parents complain that they, "Didn't really understand what they were signing." And this can sometimes get passed off as evidence. Ugh. The kid probably slid because you've been grooming him to be a Major Leaguer since he was 2, despite the fact that he has no hand-eye coordination and is slow as molasses. He was hustling for YOU.

Overall that class was terrible. The worst class in my then 5 years of post-secondary school (and still to this day). We focused on torts more than anyone would have liked, despite Sport Law being much more than that in my eyes. My interests were more along the lines of sport policy, antitrust, contract law, etc. But no. We had to hear about the kid standing in the 'no standing' section of the track meet and getting hit with a broken javelin...for 3 hours a night every Thursday night. And we all know Thursday is the best Happy Hour day.

Okay, enough ranting. I'm not sure I really had a point there (unless someone from Michigan administration is reading this) other than these lawsuits happen way too much. I don't know the details of WHY the family was awarded $125,000. I can't imagine any judge in their right mind would award this amount just because he got hurt playing baseball (the bags were the right kind apparently, the coach taught him how to slide correctly, etc.). Unfortunately, all the way through the high school and college ranks this has become a concern for coaches. I coached for a year at my former high school and I can't even count the number of times we were told we would be sued, were sent threatening letters, and so on from parents simply because we weren't playing their kids. And we actually won the conference and made the regional championship! There really wasn't much argument for their kids playing, not to mention the off-field and on-field (mis)behavior of said kids.

I highly encourage parents to let their kids play sports, but do so with a reality check. Kids get hurt. However, I bet kids get hurt less than they did when they were playing outside every day (perhaps Nintendo Wii has recently reversed that trend). There's just not as much jumping out of trees and such. Let them have fun. Just because there's someone that is at a possible LEGAL fault because of some loopholes doesn't mean you have to 'find justice'. If the coach stomped on your kid's ACL because he struck out, then you have a lawsuit. If a metal bat breaks and hits a 9 year old in the head, then you have a lawsuit (against the bat manufacturing company).

In the end the case went on for 5 years, and the $125,000 settlement most likely went to the lawyer. Nothing was resolved or justified. Not to mention the embarrassment to the kid. He probably never played a sport again. I say sue the parents for emotional pain and suffering.

Addendum: The article contrasts with a player that received the Sportsmanship Award for Little League this year. I don't want to overshadow his accomplishment. Nice kid. I hope he becomes a Major Leaguer.

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