Tennis player injured by another's tantrum cannot sue
David Juhas was engaged in tennis practice at Anchor Bay High School when he violently backhanded a stray ball, striking John Chryczyk in the eye on an adjacent court, and causing severe injury to Chryczyk's eye. Chryczyk sued Juhas in an attempt to secure compensation from Juhas' homeowners' liability coverage.
Juhas's attorneys claimed that Juhas could not be held liable for the injury he caused because the boys were engaged in a recreational activity at the time of the injury. Under an activist ruling by the so-called "Engler Majority" of the Michigan Supreme Court, persons engaged in a recreational activity at the time an injury is suffered are immune from ordinary negligence and only responsible for "reckless" conduct. Chryczyk's attorneys claimed that violently striking a stray ball in the middle of several courts of activity was, indeed, reckless, and the trial court held that a reasonable jury may agree.
Juhas' insurer appealed and the Court of Appeals ruled that the case should be dismissed. The Court interpreted the events as mere negligence and ruled that a reasonable jury could not conclude that Juhas' conduct was "reckless." We think that with a fair recounting of the event, more than half the adults polled about Juhas' conduct would readily describe it as "reckless" and most would consider it an appropriate application of his liability coverage to compensate Juhas' vicitim.
With insurers dominating the Court system, the gap between what consumers think they are buying through liability insurance, and the actual value of what they are receiving, is enormous.