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Little league injury

14-year-old Leonard Harrison IV had been playing first base during an all-star practice in Lake Elsinore. His webbing blew out and he was walking to the third-base dugout to get a replacement glove.

As Leonard was passing behind the pitcher’s mound, he noticed the coach, who was pitching, was about to throw to a batter.

According to his lawsuit, Leonard yelled at the coach, and the coach assured him of his safety, so he proceeded toward the dugout.



Leonard was between third base and home plate when the coach threw a pitch and the batter hit a line drive that smashed Leonard in the temple, causing a fractured skull and permanent injuries.

Does Leonard have a suit against his coach and Little League? Of course he does. Anyone can sue, but does he have a winning case?



SPORTING INJURIES

If this sounds familiar, it is, because the Law Review has analyzed the rights and liabilities of the parties (law school talk) when a participant in a sporting event is injured.

We have discussed baseball injuries, skier collisions, flag football injuries, horse jumping incidents, bicycle races, rock climbing falls and collisions with padded ski lift towers.

In practically every case, the court has ruled against the injured athlete, finding that the party who voluntarily engaged in the sport or activity with inherent risks “assumed the risk” of injury. The policy behind such rulings is to foster participation in sports without fear of litigation, i.e., keep the lawyers out of it – an admirable goal (There goes my kid’s college fund).

The court cases consistently hold that instructors and sponsors of sporting events must not increase the risks to a participant over and above those inherent in the sport.

The instructor, in this case the coach, is not an insurer of the player’s safety, but on the other hand may not increase his chance of injury. That was the legal issue in Leonard Harrison’s Superior Court case in Riverside County.

Leonard lost.

The judge’s ruling undoubtedly will be appealed, if for no other reason than the California Supreme Court will soon be ruling on a key sports injury case – a swimming relay race where a coach insisted a student (supposedly without training) dive into the shallow end of the school racing pool.

The swimmer broke her neck. The Court of Appeal found that diving into a shallow pool is an integral part of swimming. She assumed the risk

We will let you know how the Supreme Court handles the swimming pool case and finesses this fine-line area of the law.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter-Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno.


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