CONTACT SPORTS DOCTRINE DOES NOT APPLY TO ATHLETIC TRAINER STRUCK BY HOCKEY PUCK
On December 31, 2009, the Second Appellate District Court of Illinois released an opinion that I had been waiting for – reversing the trial court’s dismissal of the negligence portion of one of my cases involving a very serious eye injury. My client, a young guy was an athletic trainer at the time of his injury. He was loaned out to a local hockey team. He spent most of his time in an office in the back, only coming to the ice under very limited circumstances – attending to an injured player or filling water bottles in the bench area when the players banged on his door.
On the day of the injury, he heard some banging on the door and headed to the bench area. As he stepped into the bench he caught a puck in the right eye. The puck fractured bones under his right eye and resulted in permanent vision loss. I filed suit against the player involved and the team. After discovery, they filed a motion to dismiss the negligence counts under the “contact sports doctrine” [CPS]. The CPS doctrine basically says that participants in a contact sport may be held liable for injuries to coparticipants only for injuries caused by “wilful and wanton” conduct – which essentially means the defendant knew that a serious injury would occur. Under the CPS defendants are NOT liable for injuries from simple negligence. The trial court, to my dismay, granted the motion. The court’s order left me with only wilful and wanton counts against the defendants – which are very difficult to prove.
I appealed the dismissal of the negligence counts. More precisely retained the very capable Joanna Fryer to handle the appeal. And last week learned that the Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s opinion dismissing the negligence counts. The Appellate Court ruled that my client was not a participant in a contact sport, and consequently the CPS doctrine does not apply. The negligence counts are re-instated. Nice way to start the year – with an win in the Appellate Court.