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Violence in Sport and Tort Law Principles

A tort is a civil wrong or conduct that is intended to harm other people or their property. A tort is wrong against private duty, and thus is against public duty then the tort will become a crime. Hence, torts such as assault can also be categorized as crimes. The tort law is based on three main principles, which include, intentional and negligent torts (Yasser, 2000).

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Intentional tort

This occurs when the wrong doer is certain of the fact that he is committing an offence against the other person. For example striking a person in a fight with the motive of harming him would be categorized as a tort of battery. Persons who incur losses or suffer injuries from intentional torts have a right to sue in court to be compensated for their loss (Cozzillio, et al, 2007). In sport, injuries caused by one player to another intentionally should be classified as battery, since they are not accidents. For this principle to be applied, the plaintiff must prove that either the defendant had a desire to harm him or her, or he was knowledgeable and had substantial certainty of the harm he was causing (Yasser, 2000). However, the defendant can escape liability if he proves that he had not foreseen the action on the plaintiff or that he was of unsound mind. However, the latter cannot be used as a defense by a defendant in sports since persons with unsound mind do engage in sports whatsoever (Thornton, 2011).

This is a principle used when a person has suffered loss or injuries due to another person’s carelessness or recklessness (Champion, 2005). The law provides that any persons while undertaking any action should have his or her neighbor in mind. Neighbor in this context does not necessarily mean the person living next house; it can be used to refer to any person next to you. In sport, two persons playing a game together in the same field will be termed as neighbors in tort law and therefore, each should have the other in mind while doing any action. The level of care to be exercised should be that which another person in the same circumstances would have exercised. As a rule, the plaintiff must prove that he suffered injuries from negligence or lack of care of the other person (Cozzillio, et al, 2007). Thus, the plaintiff can only be compensated damages if he proves with no reasonable doubt that he suffered losses or injuries out of the negligence of the defendant.

Validity of the application of the general principles

Though the law of torts can be applied to solve these violence cases in sports, it might not apply in all cases since in some cases it will give biased judgments. Take for instance, in the case of R v Bradshaw (1878). A player in a football game struck another in the abdomen with his knee to an extend that the victim died. Yet, instead of the offender being held liable for murder charges, the case was declared an accident just because the player action was not intentional. The player was found not guilty just because he had not broken any rules of the game. In this case, I would say that tort law is biased and unfair (Thornton, 2011).

Tort law may also be inappropriate to apply in sports law since the offenders can always prove to be innocent by claiming to have playing an honest game. Many players will also hold on to the excuse that they did not intent, but was an accident. Thus, in this case it might be difficult to determine whether indeed the injury was in the normality of the game or an intentional and excessive force was applied (Champion, 2005).

Some players might also have consented to the act of violence. Taking for a example in a karate sport where a player tells the other to throw a punch at him. If any injury occurred in then case no one will liable since the individual consented to the act. Thus in this case too the injured person cannot claim intentional tort and hence can not be compensated.


Champion, W.T, Jr. (2005). Sports law: cases, documents, and materials. New York: Aspen Publishers.

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Cozzillio, Levinstein, Dimino, & Feldman. (2007). Sports Law, Cases and Materials (2nd Ed.). Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

Thornton, P.K. (2011). Sports law. London: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Yasser, R.L; et al. (2000). Sports law: cases and materials. Cincinnati, Ohio: Anderson Pub. Co.

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