A Summit County Jury found that the Defendant was not negligent arising from a collision that occurred with the Plaintiff during an adult hockey game in the Park City Hockey no check league. Plaintiff was on a breakaway towards the goal. Defendant was on defense and attempted to establish a position between Plaintiff and the goal and placed his stick to attempt to block the Plaintiff's shot. He was unable to block the puck, Unfortunately, both players attempted to occupy the same spot of ice at the same time. As a result of the collision, both fell to the ice. Defendant had a laceration to his cheek from Plaintiff's stick. Plaintiff received 2 cracked ribs and, a sprained AC Joint. Defendant was called for a check, a minor penalty. The league rules specifically state that playing the puck rather than the body is the rule. Although there is incidental body contact, if players can avoid body conduct, they are required to do so. Plaintiff hired the State Supervisor of referees to state that Defendant should not have gone so aggressively towards Plaintiff's position, particularly if Plaintiff was shooting the puck. The video of the game had been sent to the league administrator, who reviewed it and did not escalate the call on the ice.
The interesting aspect of this case, was Judge Harris's decision to try it under a simple negligence standard rather than a reckless standard. So, the jury was instructed with the MUJI negligence instruction with a couple of interesting modifications. First, if the activity was within the ordinary range of activity of a no check league, then that was evidence that would not support a negligence finding. However, the jury was also instructed that a violation of a safety rule can be evidence of negligence, but it is not required. Because Utah does not have a specific statute, rule or case precedence on using the Reckless standard, the court determined that the default was negligence. A take away is if you are going to rely upon the referees in the game and the players in a specified recreational activity, to be safe, you should designate them as unretained experts so that they can specifically state that such activity is not out of the ordinary. Wisconsin has a statute specifically applying the reckless standard to apply to recreational/sporting activities.
It was interesting to try this as a negligence case and argue that an inadvertent collision was not negligence.
If you have any questions, feel free to let me know.
PETERSEN & ASSOCIATES
Lloyd R. Jones,