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DEFENDANT’S School Liability – Seventh grade soccer player in varsity game is kicked by opposing player – Broken leg requiring cast.

Nassau County, NY

The plaintiff was a seventh grader at the Roosevelt Middle School. While playing in a varsity high school soccer game, she was kicked in the shin by an opposing team player. As a result of the kick, the plaintiff sustained a broken leg. The plaintiff commenced this action against the Roosevelt School District alleging that it had failed to provide the paper work required to bump a player from a lower grade to the varsity team and that this failure was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The defendant school district argued that the failure to provide the requisite paperwork was not a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and that the plaintiff had assumed the risk of being injured in the soccer game.

The Roosevelt Middle School does not have a girls’ soccer team. So like her sister before her, the plaintiff wanted to be “bumped” up to the high school varsity girls’ team. In order to do so, various forms were required by the school district, including a parental permission slip, an examination by the player’s physician, an impartial coach’s review of the player’s performance, and approval by the district’s athletic director.

During the first game of the season against Uniondale High School’s girls’ soccer team, right before the end of the first half, the plaintiff was chasing a loose ball when another player from Uniondale went after the ball. The Uniondale player kicked the plaintiff in her shin, causing a broken tibia and fibula. The plaintiff wore a cast for one month.

The plaintiff’s father testified that he was unaware that the plaintiff was playing the subject game. The plaintiff argued that she should not have been playing without receiving from the defendant the requisite paperwork. The defendant conceded that it had not provided the requisite paperwork. However, it argued that the lack of requisite paperwork was not a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and that she had assumed the risk of injuries.

The defendant emphasized that the plaintiff was an excellent soccer play and was, in fact, one of the best players on the team. In addition, the defendant pointed out that the plaintiff was from a family of experienced, excellent soccer players, including her sister, brother and father. The defendant also argued that the plaintiff’s father was aware that the plaintiff was playing in the subject game, had assented to play, and, therefore, also assumed the risk of injury to his daughter and that he was aware of the necessary paperwork because he had submitted it for his older daughter when she was bumped up to play on the varsity team.

The plaintiff demanded $________. The defendant offered $________.The trial was bifurcated. The liability phase took three days. The jury deliberated for a-half hour and returned a verdict for the defendant. It found that the defendant was negligent in not providing the necessary paperwork, but that this negligence was not a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.

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