Massachusetts Appeals Court Upholds Sports Practice Injury Liability Decision
On Monday, November 2, 2020, the Massachusetts Appeals Court dismissed a reckless injury case involving a Suffolk University softball player — Brooke A. Brandt — against her teammate — Meredith Ball.
In effect, the appellate court’s dismissal upholds the decree that one cannot hold athletes liable for minor negligence caused during any practice session. “If the players could not practice as vigorously as they play, they would — at best — be unprepared for the challenges of actual competition,” the court said. “At worst, their inability to practice vigorously would expose them to an increased risk of injury during games, especially if they competed against out-of-State teams not so constrained.”
Brooke Brandt, who played for the Suffolk University softball team, claimed that she suffered head injuries caused by her “best friend,” and fellow team member during batting practice.
The alleged incident occurred on March 7, 2014, at the indoor Suffolk training facility. The team, including Brandt, was involved in a practice session that included various drills focusing on different skill sets.
During batting practice, Brandt moved towards a station where Meredith was hitting balls off a tee. In the process, she was struck in the head by her teammate’s bat.
The injury left Brandt with a concussion and four stitches. She alleged the injury was the result of “recklessness” on the part of her teammate.
Brandt initially claimed that she had signaled to Meredith before stepping towards the tee, yelling for her to “wait.” However, she later repudiated her statement by citing “no recollection of alerting her teammate.”
In its dismissal report, the Massachusetts Appeals Court stated that the accident resulting in Brandt’s injuries was an unfortunate incident. However, it did not account for any legal recklessness.
The court further remarked that Suffolk University’s coach, also sued in the complaint, was not liable of negligence.
A waiver signed by Brandt and her teammates prior to the accident was also cited in the decision, essentially absolving Suffolk University of any liability for injuries “permitted by the law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”