Participants in recreational sports cannot escape the risk of injury. Fouls, penalties, and cards are common elements of any game. What one person considers competitive play is another person’s cheap shot. How do you distinguish between the two in the context of youth sports? Can rough play ever form the basis of a civil lawsuit for damages? The New Jersey Appellate Division provides the analytical framework to analyze such a claim in C.J.R. v. G.A.
C.J.R. involved a recreational lacrosse league for eleven and twelve year old boys. The score was close and time was winding down in the game. The recollection of most witnesses confirmed that G.A. ran across the field and put a hard check on C.J.R., possibly from the behind, causing C.J.R. serious injury. The parents of C.J.R. filed suit and alleged that G.A. acted negligently, if not recklessly, in causing their son’s injury.
The Appellate Division announced a new test to judge the defendant’s conduct. It blended the Crawn/Schick test that requires a showing of recklessness if the participants are adults with a second level of analysis that examines whether it would be “reasonable to expect a minor of the same age and characteristics … to refrain from the injurious physical contact.”
Applying this test to G.A.’s conduct, the court concluded that while the plaintiff’s injury was unfortunate, the defendant’s conduct was not actionable. Score one for common sense.