Organized sports can be an extremely positive experience for adolescents and teens, where they practice setting personal goals, cooperating with a team, and competing with rivals. Unfortunately, youth sports can also lead to serious injuries and even death. What happens if your child is injured while playing a game in an organized school sport? Can you sue your public school?
In a word, no.
High school sports like football are known to be dangerous, and injuries including concussions are a foreseeable risk that players and their parents are aware of when they choose to participate. It’s expected that cheerleaders may take an unexpected tumble now and then. Both minor and serious injuries are risks people accept when they play.
What’s more, Massachusetts protects its public institutions, including schools, from lawsuits. This is because municipalities could go bankrupt if enough lawsuits were resolved, and the state legislature wanted to prevent that from happening.
What happens if the injury was caused by a faulty piece of equipment, such as a helmet that failed to protect a player’s head? That is a potential product liability case, but from our experience, those cases are difficult to win.
Here’s another scenario: A high school pitcher gets mad and throws a baseball at his own dugout, walloping a teammate in the head. The victim gets a serious injury. Can his family sue the pitcher’s family?
This is a little tricky. As we’ve written before, civil suits are not for harm caused intentionally such as an assault. Those are criminal matters, and theoretically, this would be a criminal matter and not grounds for a lawsuit.
It’s rare that someone would admit he threw the ball and tried to injure another player. Most likely, he would say he never meant to hit anyone, or he lost control and didn’t realize what he was doing. Still, it’s difficult to find a firm that would take that case.
Here’s another scenario: The coach is driving a student home from practice and gets in a car accident. The player is injured. This could be grounds for a lawsuit, against the driver or of another person who causes the accident, but this isn’t really a school sports scenario anymore. There’s nothing inside the game you can sue for, but we’re not outside the game and into the world at large.