School Sports Injuries and Personal Injury Lawsuits – Must Show More Than the Ordinary Negligence Standard

Patsaros v. Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School

Docket No.: A-4573-18T2

Decided September 25, 2020

Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division considered whether a high school wrestler who suffered a concussion while not wearing headgear in practice was able to recoup monetary damages from the school.

In Patsaros, Yanni Patsaros (Yanni), then sixteen, was injured at wrestling practice at his high school when another participant accidentally stepped on his head. Yanni had wrestled recreationally since he was five years old.

No headgear was worn during the practice. Wrestling headgear, however, primarily protects from deformities of the ear, not concussions such as the one Yanni suffered as a result of the incident. Without specifics, plaintiffs allege the mats were too close together. Yanni claims the coach, defendant Shawn Scannell, whispered to him that he should minimize the extent of his injury to his trainer. Regardless, Scannell immediately sent Yanni to the trainer, defendant Andrew Bergman, who barred him from practicing further that day. Bergman filled in a report about the incident. That night, Yanni’s mother called Bergman, and it was agreed Yanni would be monitored and sit out practice the following day, December 24. Bergman performed “sideline tests” and kept Yanni from practice that day as well, recommending that he see a physician. While at an off-site practice on December 24, at which Bergman was not present and contrary to his instruction, Yanni “shadow wrestled and performed monkey rolls.” He stopped when he became sick to his stomach. Ultimately, Yanni’s physician diagnosed him as having suffered a concussion and ordered him to stop engaging in sports activities during the remainder of the school year.

The trial judge found summary judgment was appropriate for defendants, has plaintiff had not established that the conduct alleged was the heightened-standard of reckless conduct for sports injuries in personal injury cases.  Plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint, and grant of summary judgment to defendants.  In order to bring a successful suit for personal injury in sports context, the plaintiff needs to prove reckless conduct, which is above the ordinary negligence standard.  This is meant to distinguish excessively harmful conduct and the more routine rough-and-tumble of sports that should occur freely on the playing fields and should not be second-guessed in courtrooms.

This case is important for all sports injuries.  In order to recoup monetary compensation for personal injury during a sport, the plaintiff/injured person must show more than the ordinary negligence standard in other personal injury cases.  The plaintiff must demonstrate reckless conduct – conduct above and beyond that of which is expected in sports – in order to prove liability and receive monetary damages.  Without a demonstration of reckless conduct, the plaintiff’s complaint will dismiss if the injury occurred during sports.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a product liability, slip and fall, motor vehicle accident, truck crash, wrongful death, or other premises related injury, you need to make sure you contact a personal injury attorney with experience today.  Failing to consider these issues could result in your case be dismissed permanently.  Do not hesitate to contact Hark & Hark today to discuss your personal injury.

For personal injury matters, you pay nothing upfront, and our fee is paid as a percentage of your recovery. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.


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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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