A prerequisite to establishing a claim of negligence is the existence of a duty. Negligence is the breach of legal duty or obligation recognized by the law, requiring the actor to conform to a certain standard of conduct, for the protection of others against unreasonable risks. It has been defined as conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. The standard established by the law is foreseeability of harm or probability of injury. The risk reasonably to be perceived defines the duty to be obeyed, and risk imports relation; it is risk to another or to others within the range of apprehension. The law's standard is one of reasonable foresight, not prophetic vision.
Appellant tortfeasors challenged the decision of the Iowa District Court for Johnson County (Iowa), which granted appellee referee's motion for summary judgment that dismissed the tortfeasors' counterclaim for damages arising from the referee's alleged malpractice as a referee during a college basketball game. Plaintiff was a referee for college basketball games and was blamed by fans for a particular loss by the University of Iowa team. A few days after the controversial game, defendant tortfeasors began marketing shirts bearing a derogatory reference to the referee. The referee brought an action for injunctive relief together with actual and punitive damages. Tortfeasors counterclaimed on a theory of referee malpractice. The trial court granted summary judgment in referee's favor.
Whether a referee owed a duty to tortfeasors to reasonably anticipate a wrong call injuring their business?
The court affirmed and found that the referee owed no duty to the tortfeasors. The court found that it was beyond credulity that plaintiff, while refereeing a game, had to make his calls at all times perceiving that a wrong call could have injured tortfeasors' business or one similarly situated and subject him to liability. The court determined that the tortfeasors were not beneficiaries under the referee's employment contract and even if they were, they could not maintain a cause of action because they would have been only incidental beneficiaries.The court affirmed the order of the trial court that granted summary judgment in favor of victim.