Semantics of "tort reform" again defeat common sense
Last month, a coach who encouraged two of his football players to "finish it" after his players had interrupted a locker room fight, was discharged from liability because he didn't actually throw a punch. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge's holding that when the coach re-started the fight, he caused the subsequent serious injuries. It relied upon the tort-reforming "Engler Majority" Supreme Court justices' ruling that for a government employeeto be responsible for his gross negligence, he must be the sole cause of any injury.
This month, the Court of Appeals repeated this elevation of semantics over good sense. It held that a varsity lacrosse coach who allowed his team to practice on the sidelines of a j.v. game, after being warned of the danger, did not "cause" injuries to a trainer struck in the head. The Court again suggested that the sole cause of the injury was the person who flung the ball--even though this action could not have occurred if the coach had exercised reasonable authority.
To manipulate the phrase of a famous Justice, these decisions are another sad reminder that in our era, the "life of the law" is not logic or fairness, it is politics. The case is Litzenberg v. Guiffre, L'Anse Creuse Public School District, et al.