The South Carolina Supreme Court has tossed out the case of a man hurt in a friendly softball game.
The case stems from a Cub Scout camping trip in 2004, when Pack 48 of Faith Presbyterian Church in Ballentine group played a father-son pickup softball game. During the game, David Cole was playing catcher when another father crashed into him at home plate in an attempt to score a run. The second father, Jeff Wagner, accidentally kicked Cole in the head while colliding with him.
Cole suffered a head wound, started bleeding, and went into convulsions. He had to be airlifted to a Columbia hospital, where he spent two days in intensive care. Wagner suffered a broken rib.
Cole and his son sued the Boy Scouts, Faith Presbyterian, and Wagner for personal injury and emotional distress. The other parties settled, but a lower judge ruled in Wagner’s favor in a summary judgment. Cole appealed, arguing that Wagner’s actions in purposely running into him were beyond the scope of a friendly game. His lawyer pointed out that a pack leader briefly interrupted the game at one point, worried that some fathers were playing too aggressively.
However, the Supreme Court said Monday that Cole was playing in a casual game in which the two teams weren’t even keeping score. The justices said that meant Cole assumed the risk by playing.
“Even assuming… that Wagner’s conduct could be characterized as reckless, it was not so reckless as to involve risks outside the scope of softball,” the justices wrote in their opinion, “The likelihood of someone running too fast to stop or playing more aggressively than anticipated is part of the competitive atmosphere of athletics.”
The justices decided unanimously in Wagner’s favor. However, justice Costa Pleicones added a brief opinion of his own, saying, “I am not convinced that a game of pick-up softball is a contact sport.”
Wagner’s attorney told the Associated Press that his client was wearing steel-tipped boots when he accidentally kicked Cole.