Football and Convicts in Pennsylvania.

And, no, we’re not talking about Michael Vick — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Vick — or perhaps someday Ben Roethlisberger — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Roethlisberger. Rather, we’re talking about the case of Betts, et al. v. New Castle Youth Development, et al. In Betts, the plaintiff suffered a spinal cord injury while attempting to make a tackle during a pick-up football game at a juvenile detention center. After the injury, he sued the center and its staff members claiming various constitutional violations. Specifically, Betts alleged that the Center, by allowing residents to play tackle football without pads, had exposed Betts to a “substantial risk” of serious harm. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit and the case went up to the Third Circuit.

The Third Circuit has just upheld the trial court’s decision — http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/093753p.pdf The Third Circuit wrote that “Life is fraught with risk of serious harm and the sports world is no exception. But an Eighth Amendment violation [that is the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment] may not be predicated on exposure to any risk of serious harm; the risk must be substantial. Because the record in this case is devoid of evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that serious injury is a common or likely occurrence in tackle football games” dismissal was appropriate.

If you would like more information about this post, please contact Bob Cosgrove at rcosgrove@wcmlaw.com.