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Tuesday, April 01, 2008
A Coach's Liability for On-Ice Violence

After our discussion of the appropriate standards for criminal sanction of on-ice/court/field violence in class this week (which included a discussion of Regina v. Bertuzzi, which Greg discussed here and here), several students brought to my attention the latest developments in Steve Moore's civil action against Todd Bertuzzi (discussed in earlier posts here and here). ESPN reports Bertuzzi has filed a third party complaint, bringing his former coach Marc Crawford into the case as a defendant (apparently with Moore's approval). According to Bertuzzi, Crawford directed him to "to make [Moore] 'pay the price'" for an earlier hit against one of Bertuzzi's teammates.

The liability of a coach for a player's on-ice misconduct is an unsettled area in the application of tort law to sporting injuries (something Greg speculated about when Temple basketball coach John Chaney sent a little used "enforcer" on the court to "send a message" to an opposing player). A coach could be liable in one of two ways -- either for his own direct misconduct (amounting to recklessness or intentional tort), or indirectly by was of respondeat superior liability based on his player's actions.

When a coach directs a player to make an opponent "pay the price", and the opponent is subsequently injured, has the coach committed a direct tort amounting to recklessness or intentional misconduct? To be sure, "pay the price" is not quite as direct as this memorable set of instructions:
John Kreese: Bobby, I want him out of commission.
Bobby: But, Sensei, I can beat this guy.
John Kreese: I don't want him beaten.
Bobby: But I'll be disqualified.
John Kreese: Out of commission.
Is it possible to argue that the coach's words were meant to capture only paying a "foreseeable" price (in the form of a "consensual fight", something as to which consent might bar a tort claim)?


Sweep the leg!

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 4/01/2008 3:16 PM  

don't know if you guys saw this:

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/01/2008 4:28 PM  

Justice Ginsberg plays fantasy baseball, who knew?

I bet scalia wins the league every year.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/01/2008 4:37 PM  

i hate april fools.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/01/2008 5:41 PM  

would it be smarter if Moore were to sue under respondeat superior to name the Canuck organization, instead of just the coach. or is there something else that would control this situation?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/01/2008 9:56 PM  

First of all...any post that uses the Karate Kid is inherently great.

In response to the last comment:
I don't know how it all would play out, but the Canucks would probably argue that the coach and Bertuzzi were committing intentional torts. I'm pretty sure that intentional torts (and maybe extreme recklessness as well?) usually fall outside of the scope of employment, and would absolve the Canucks of liability under Respondeat Superior

Anonymous Emmett Jones -- 4/02/2008 7:35 PM  

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