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Soccer-League Leg Injury Leads to $2M Lawsuit

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on June 10, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Virginia man who suffered a broken leg during a recreational-league soccer match is suing a fellow player for $2 million.

Drew Sellers, 36, of Norfolk, was playing in a Southside Men's League game in Virginia Beach in 2012, when he claims another player named Isaiah Ruhl purposely kicked him in the lower leg, breaking his tibia and fibula bones.

Inquiring minds may be asking: Doesn't playing organized sports mean assuming the risk of injury?

Does Assumption of Risk Apply?

Generally, proving that an injured person assumed the risk of injury when they undertook the activity in question is a defense to a negligence lawsuit.

Engaging in sports is typically assumed to involve some risk of injury, and thus many sports-injury lawsuits are unsuccessful, like the college pitcher who sued after being hit by a line drive during batting practice. In that case, the court found the pitcher's injuries were of the type that could be expected when playing baseball and the risk of incurring them was therefore assumed by agreeing to play.

In this case, however, Sellers and his attorney are arguing that Sellers' injuries go beyond the type that are typically expected in a soccer game.

Additional Unknown Dangers

As Sellers' lawyer told The Virginian-Pilot, "By no means are we saying all sport injuries are grounds for a lawsuit. We understand that injuries can happen through incidental conduct while playing soccer. However, by simply stepping on a soccer field, one does not assume the risk of all injury under any circumstance."

Indeed, injuries that could not have been foreseen, or those that are the result of reckless conduct, are typically not covered by an assumption of the risk defense. If Sellers' case goes to trial, a jury may be asked to determine if Ruhl's action rose to the level of recklessness.

Ruhl was ejected from the game and quit the league following the incident. He could not be reached by The Virginian-Pilot for comment.

Contributory Negligence

Whether Sellers was partially at fault for his own injury will also be a major factor in this case. In most states, a plaintiff who is partially at fault in an accident can recover proportional to their level of fault: For example, if a victim was 25% at fault, he can recover 75% of his damages.

Virginia, however, is one of only a few states that follow the rule of contributory negligence, in which a plaintiff who even partially at fault is barred from any recovery. So if the jury finds that Sellers in any way contributed to his own injury, even as little as 1 percent, he will be unable to recover any damages.

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