New Jersey Appellate Courts Issue Game-Changing Rulings on Tort Liability In Youth Sports

Sport is often referred to as a mirror of a society.

In New Jersey, the appellate court has recently used sports to reflect modern principles of tort liability. Within the past two weeks, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued two significant rulings for civil practitioners to study.

The Court’s findings clarified that it is not unreasonable for a baseball field to lack protective fencing for spectators along the base paths and that there is no tort liability for a child who injures another child during a youth sporting event.

The opinions in Brigante v. Board of Education and C.J.R. v. G.A. involve distinct torts issues, but both bolster a defendant’s ability to avoid liability when injuries occur at sporting events.

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Disability Insurance Takes Center Stage As Athletes’ Income Grows

Georgia star running back Todd Gurley tore his ACL just months before cashing in as a potential 1st round NFL draft pick. Fortunately, he has a $10 million disability insurance policy.

Wearing Alabama gear to an Auburn house during the Iron Bowl is risky.

Playing a contact sport without disability insurance is just plain dumb. Fortunately, as athletes’ salaries and endorsement deals skyrocket, more and more of the top performers are wising up to the value of purchasing disability policies.

Recently, many college football fans watched in horror as Georgia star running back and projected top-10 NFL draft pick, Todd Gurley suffered a season-ending knee injury. Decades ago, Gurley’s injury might have spelled financial and life disaster. However, thanks to recent NCAA rule changes, athletes like Gurley can purchase various disability policies either by borrowing against their projected future earnings or through their school directly.

Insurance policies, however, might as well be written in Klingon. So to better explain the ins and outs of insurance, we called in the big guns. Attorney Frank Darras has spent his life fighting insurance companies. He is one of the top disability lawyers in the nation and has won nearly $1 billion for his clients. His firm, DarrasLaw has seen, evaluated, litigated, and resolved more disability and long-term care cases than any firm in the United States.

So yea, he knows a thing or two about disability policies and how they play a huge role in college and professional athletics.

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No Free Speech (Or Silence) In The NFL

The NFL recently fined Seattle Seahawks' running back Marshawn Lynch $100,000 for not talking to the media. (Photo: USA Today)

Aside from death and taxes, there is one universal, or at least American, truth we must all accept — Roger Goodell can do whatever he wants.

The NFL Commissioner has free reign to do as he pleases, including the complete trampling of civil rights, largely because the NFL Players Association is essentially worthless.

The media has covered the plights of Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice ad nauseam. But perhaps the greatest example of how the NFLPA has failed its members arises out of Marshawn Lynch’s lack of free speech and his recent $100,000 fine for not giving post-game interviews.

Look, Lynch is no choir boy. He was suspended in 2009 following a misdemeanor weapons charge and in 2012 he pled a DUI down to reckless driving. This past offseason he was investigated for an alleged assault. However, Lynch is a likeable character who dominates the running back position and enjoys Skittles on the sideline. He also appeared in the best Mayne Event segment of all time. Ambience or décor, Marshawn?

The NFL should want someone like Lynch to play hard, keep his head down, and stay out of trouble. And that is exactly what Lynch has tried to do. In the NFL, though, players do not have the right to remain silent. Since Lynch refused to speak to the media following the Seahawks’ loss to the Chiefs on November 16, Goodell levied a $100,000 fine on Lynch.

Let that sink in.

Le’Veon Bell openly smoked weed before a team flight and has not paid a dime in fines. Lynch kept his mouth shut after a game and now has to pay $100,000, which is perfectly allowable under the vague and open-ended terms of the CBA.

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Thanks For Nothing Adam Silver

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is the first major professional sports commissioner to support legalized sports betting.

Today was supposed to be a good day. Screw good, today was supposed to be an amazing, nailed a 6-team parlay kind of day.

I awoke to numerous messages about how NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had penned an Op-Ed in the New York Times supporting the legalization of sports betting. Halle-freaking-lujah. Leave it to a Jewish lawyer to transform into the messiah of American sports gamblers.

Since taking over the NBA in February, Silver has relished the role of being the cool uncle in major professional sports. He swiftly dealt with the Donald Sterling mess, openly acknowledged that teams are encouraged to tank due to the NBA’s asinine draft system (I see you Sixers), and embraced paid daily fantasy. His peers, Roger Goodell, Gary Bettman, and Bud Selig are basically cold, wet blankets who seem to enjoy ruining everyone’s fun and getting booed at every public appearance.

But then I actually read Silver’s op-ed. It was nothing more than a turd sandwich.

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Are High School Athletes Who Haze Teammates Really Juveniles?

Driving. Selecting a college. Deciding whether or not to send a nude selfie. Choosing whether to go play Single-A baseball or join the NCAA cartel without the assistance of an advisor. These are all major, adult decisions and activities that 16 and 17-year-olds routinely face in America. Some psychologists even think teenagers should be allowed to vote. They can’t be much worse than our current electorate, right?

At the very least, high school juniors and seniors should know better than to sexually assault classmates and teammates. However, two recent cases involving suburban high school football players highlight the unwillingness for the criminal justice system to try teenagers as adults particularly when victims are also under the age of 18.

Last year, two Steubenville, Ohio football players, ages 16 and 17, received juvenile detention center sentences for raping a classmate and then spreading videos and photos of the sexual assault on the Internet. One of the men convicted is actually now back playing football at Steubenville High School.

This year, seven varsity football players from Sayreville, New Jersey are accused of hazing and sexually assaulting freshman teammates in the school locker room. The accusations prompted school officials in Sayreville to suspend the players and coaches involved, and to cancel the remainder of the football season.

Yet this week, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office decided to charge the attackers as juveniles. After speaking with a former New Jersey prosecutor and a current Illinois public defender, it appears that this unexpected move is the right one.

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Georgia Legislature Poised To Punish Real NCAA Offenders

Georgia RB Todd Gurley is the latest victim of NCAA hypocrisy.

Georgia star running back Todd Gurley violated an NCAA rule by accepting $3,000 for autographing memorabilia. Period. End of story.

Gurley admitted his wrongdoing, effectively forfeiting the Heisman Trophy, and he prepared to face an appropriate punishment.

But then the NCAA did what the NCAA does best — overreact and punish everyone but the real offender.

Forget that Gurley’s coach makes $3.2 million per year. Forget that the league Gurley plays for, draws ratings for, and sells tickets for, the SEC, has a $2 billion TV deal with ESPN. Even forget that this 20-year-old might want to take a girl out on a date, buy some new clothes, or just get a meal outside of the cafeteria but has no way to earn extra money since he works 80-hour weeks making his school, his coach, and his league more money than some nations’ GDPs.

Forget all of that, because what we are dealing with is an athletic league acting as judge, jury, and executioner on a kid who made a few bucks selling his autograph — an act that does not violate American law and has absolutely no impact on the “competitive balance” of college football.

Yet on October 9, the NCAA suspended Gurley for four games and denied his appeal of this excessive punishment.

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NJ Judge Rules In Favor of NFL Hypocrisy

By Larry Josephson, a freelance writer who lives in Norton, Mass. He can be reached at newenglandhoops@yahoo.com.

Gamblers can bet on the Detroit Lions this Sunday in London, but they better not dare do so in New Jersey.

Apparently two plus two does indeed equal three.

At least in New Jersey Federal Court, where U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp granted a temporary restraining order on Friday preventing race tracks and casinos from accepting wagers on professional and college games at the request of the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and NCAA. (Notably, Judge Shipp is the brother of former college/NFL player Marcel Shipp. Marcel Shipp is now an assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts.)

The ruling was yet another punch in the gut for backers of legal sports wagering, and narrows the margin for error as the state moves forward with its efforts to battle federal law preventing sports betting.

Dennis Drazin, a legal adviser for Monmouth Park, which had hoped to take bets as early at this Sunday, vowed to fight on despite the injunction: “We have to step back and evaluate what we’ll do next, but certainly we will not be taking bets this weekend.”

Awkward metaphor, but we get the point. More on that in a bit, but first a few thoughts on Judge Shipp’s faulty reasoning.

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Gov. Christie Escalates Battle To Legalize NJ Sports Betting

By Larry Josephson, a freelance writer who lives in Norton, Mass. He can be reached at newenglandhoops@yahoo.com.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wasted no time late last week in signing a bill that would legalize sport betting in New Jersey, in effect nullifying in the Garden State the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which prevents unfettered wagering on sports events in all states except Nevada.

Gov. Christie’s signature on the new law was immediately met with a demand from the four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA that the federal court issue an injunction preventing New Jersey from implementing sports betting. New Jersey wants to start accepting wagers this weekend at Monmouth Park. However, the leagues
filed a motion for a temporary restraining order Tuesday in an effort to halt New Jersey’s plans.

The state must file its response to the leagues’ restraining order request Wednesday. The leagues will file another reply Thursday, before U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp reviews the filings and decides if oral arguments are required. Judge Shipp will decide if the leagues will be irreparably harmed by betting at Monmouth Park before granting the restraining order.

So what does it all mean?

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Podcast Spotlight: The Legal Blitz on The Illegal Formation

A recent lawsuit claims playing the women's World Cup on turf equates to gender discrimination. (Reuters)

We love tooting horns here at The Legal Blitz — especially our own.

So for your listening pleasure, we are thrilled to present the soulful sounds of Co-Founder Steve Silver on the Illegal Formation podcast, which you can follow @IformationCast.

Steve joined Chris Metz (@CTMetz) and John Svitek (@RidleyDragon) to discuss Jameis Winston’s twitter happy lawyer, the blurry line for agents and lawyers with respect to the NCAA, the FIFA women’s turf discrimination suit, and a multitude of NFL legal issues. Oh yeah, and we picked this week’s NFL games. Take notes before you head to the bookie.

Enjoy: The Illegal Formation Podcast.

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Former NFL Running Back Sued For Gambling Debt

Former NFL running back Clinton Portis is facing a lawsuit over past due casino markers in Las Vegas.

It is no secret that two of my favorite things are football and gambling. Thankfully, former NFL running back Clinton Portis’s recent legal woes provides a perfect opportunity to write about both.

Apparently, the two-time Pro Bowler and 2002 NFL Rookie of the Year had to go to the well a few too many times at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. The MGM recently sued Portis in Clark County, Nevada for two unpaid markers or short-term, zero to low interest loans, totaling $10,000. The casino is seeking the $10,000 plus $1,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.

Although $10,000 is a relatively low amount for a Vegas casino marker, if there is one lesson I learned after spending a few years living in Las Vegas it is that Vegas will always get its money back — always.

According to the Courthouse News Service, MGM claims Portis received two “negotiable credit instruments known as markers,” worth more than $10,000, on Jan. 31, 2011. The casino says the markers “were presented through normal banking channels for payment” on Portis’ bank account, but they were “returned dishonored and unpaid.” MGM Grand allegedly sent a written demand by certified mail on March 26, 2011 to collect on its debt, but Portis has refused to pay.

Notably, in Nevada, failure to repay casino markers can lead to both civil and criminal penalties.

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