Visitor Question

Torn ACL due to “spearing” during high school football game…

Submitted By: John (New York)

My son was injured during a high school football game. He was running from one side of the field to the other, looking for a place to cut up field with the ball. He was driven (the kid dove) into his knees by the opponent from the free safety position.

The opponent’s hands were not forward but behind him when he left his feet and dove head and shoulders first into my son’s planted knee (known as “spearing”).

The result is my son received a torn ACL and meniscus.

The play that was run was run one time too many, and the opposing team I believe saw it coming, which is fine, but this kid on the other team I believe purposely drove into my son targeting his knees. He did not have to do that, all he had to do was actually break down, as they say “wrap him up,” and the play would have been over.

The same kid earlier in the game could not catch my son on an earlier touchdown. I think the school coach and the kid are responsible for using his equipment as a weapon on the field. Spearing from my understanding is not allowed, and there are rules against it in place.

From the video evidence this was no accident but intentional. Is someone responsible for my son’s injuries? Is there anything we can do? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear John,

When it comes to high school sports injuries, the leading New York case on “Assumption of the Risk” is Benitez v. N.Y. City School Board.

In the Benitez case the plaintiff (high school football player) suffered a broken neck and was paralyzed during a high-school football game.

The plaintiff alleged his injury was caused by the school board’s negligence in mismatching his team with a team of “superior ability” and for playing the high school football player when he was “tired.”

The court dismissed the lawsuit and held that the plaintiff high school player was aware of the dangers inherent in the football game, and therefore he assumed the risks of being injured.

 

Players know penalty flags are thrown several times during the course of a game. Some flags are thrown for benign penalties such as “off sides” or “interference.” However, penalty flags may also be thrown for “illegal bloc or tackle” and “un-sportsmanlike conduct.”

If your son went into the game believing he would be insulated from an illegal hit, he and you were misinformed. Illegal tackles happen thousands of times a year on high school football fields all over the country, and as a result, many players are injured. In your son’s case, although his injury was unfortunate, he assumed the risk of being inured while playing.

Moreover, from the facts you present, it doesn’t appear a penalty flag was thrown. This means in your opinion the other player illegally tackled your son. Yet, in the opinion of the officials the tackle was not illegal.

You certainly have every right to sue the player, his school, the player’s coach, your son’s coach, and his school. While every court and every jury is unique, New York case law will likely result in a prompt dismissal of your lawsuit.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: June 15, 2017

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