Hockey Player Can’t Sue Other Players for Injuries in Massachusetts

Whether at the elementary school level or at the collegiate or professional level, playing sports is rife with inherent risks. Indeed, sports are a leading cause of injury amongst youth, and Nationwide Children’s reports that sports are the second-leading cause of emergency room visits for children and adolescents, and the second-leading cause of injuries in school. 

While playing sports may lead to injuries, especially when other players, referees, or coaches act negligently, recovering compensation may prove tricky. The outcome of a recent case and the decision of the Massachusetts Court of Appeals will make holding others liable for injuries caused as a result of a sports game more difficult. If you or a loved one has been injured while playing a sport, here’s what you need to know–

Massachusetts Court of Appeals Rules that One Hockey Player Cannot Sue Another


In July of 2013, a high school-aged hockey player, Daniel Borella, was injured during a hockey game when a player on the opposing team, Julion Scott Lever, checked Borella. Borella fell, lost consciousness for a short period of time, and was slashed in the hand by Lever’s skate. The referee called a penalty; Borella has suffered permanent partial loss of function in his hand on the result of the injury. 

As reported by Lexology, Borella filed multiple claims for damages against various parties involved, including Lever, Lever’s team’s coaches, the owners and managers of the venue where the game was played, and the game’s referees. The claims were based on each party’s negligence–the failure to exercise the same degree of care that a person of ordinary prudence would exercise in the same situation.

Court decision

In 2019, the court decided that the injury suffered by Borella is not actionable, which means that there are no grounds for a claim against the parties named, because the injury occurred as a result of the “ordinary activity inherent in the sport,” touching on the fact that physical contact is a fundamental and inseparable part of a hockey game. The one dissenting opinion, that of Associate Justice Peter J. Rubin, argued that the decision could set a dangerous precedent and have far-reaching implications for youth sports, potentially leading to an increase in serious injuries. 

Liability for a Sports Injury in Massachusetts

The court decision means that in order to hold another party liable for an injury that arises out of a sports accident, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the injury did not occur as a result of ordinary activity inherent in the sport, but instead was the result of abnormal, unusual, or extraordinary activity and negligence. 

Our Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

At the Law Offices of Alan Hildreth King & Associates, our Massachusetts personal injury lawyer can advise and represent you if you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a sports game. To learn more about liability for sports injuries and how to recover the compensation you deserve, request a free consultation by calling our law office at (781) 284-2900 or sending us a message directly.

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