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Law School Case Brief

Hackbart v. Cincinnati Bengals, Inc. - 601 F.2d 516 (10th Cir. 1979)


Reckless misconduct differs from negligence in that negligence consists of mere inadvertence, lack of skillfulness or failure to take precautions; reckless misconduct, on the other hand, involves a choice or adoption of a course of action either with knowledge of the danger or with knowledge of facts, which would disclose this danger to a reasonable man. Recklessness also differs in that it consists of intentionally doing an act with knowledge not only that it contains a risk of harm to others as does negligence, but that it actually involves a risk substantially greater in magnitude than is necessary in the case of negligence.


Plaintiff was a professional football player who was injured in-game by one of defendant’s football players.  Defendant’s player hit the back of plaintiff's head in frustration, which defendant player admitted was intentional. Although neither player complained at the time of the injury, plaintiff thereafter filed an action against the defendant for the personal injuries he sustained. The trial court held for defendants stating that football was beyond the realm of imposition of the law for tortious conduct and that plaintiff assumed the risk inherent in the game as well as contributed to his injuries.  The trial court took judicial notice of the violent nature of the sport.


Whether an intentional injury inflicted by one football player on an opposing player can give rise to liability in tort? 




The general customs of football do not approve of the intentional punching or striking of others. That this is prohibited was supported by the testimony of all of the witnesses. They testified that the intentional striking of a player in the face or from the rear is prohibited by the playing rules as well as the general customs of the game. Punching or hitting with the arms is prohibited. Undoubtedly these restraints are intended to establish reasonable boundaries so that one football player cannot intentionally inflict a serious injury on another. Therefore, the notion is not correct that all reason has been abandoned, whereby the only possible remedy for the person who has been the victim of an unlawful blow is retaliation. Consequently, the reviewing court reversed trial court's judgment for defendant and remanded for a new trial holding that where no law prevented the application of tort concepts to football, plaintiff had a right to have his tort claims adjudicated, and evidence of plaintiff's prior football conduct was irrelevant to claims and improperly admitted.

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