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JAHS

The brawl that begins with a prayer

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Utah Supreme Court rules on a case of LDS ward basketball and injuries in sports

The notoriously rough n’ tumble basketball games that take place in meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have become a cultural joke in Utah, so much so that the state’s top court has now acknowledged it.

“An athletic competition acclaimed on some local t-shirts as ‘the brawl that begins with prayer,'” Utah Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Thomas Lee wrote.

In an opinion published Saturday, the Utah Supreme Court ruled on a personal injury case involving an LDS ward basketball game and expanded the legal exception for liability in sports. The case will have impact on many other athletic events across the state.

“We endorse the idea of an exception to liability arising out of sports injuries. But we do not think the exception should turn on the defendant’s state of mind, or be limited just to contact sports. We instead hold that participants in any sport are not liable for injuries caused by their conduct if their conduct was inherent in the sport,” the Court declared in a unanimous ruling.

The case centers around an injury Judd Nixon suffered in a 2012 church-sponsored basketball game at an LDS stake center in Utah County. Nixon and Edward Clay were playing against each other.

“Nixon dribbled the ball down the court to take a shot. Clay pursued Nixon to try to contest the shot. As Clay approached Nixon’s right side he extended his right arm over Nixon’s shoulder to reach for the ball. Nixon came to a ‘jump stop’ at the foul line and began his shooting motion. When Nixon came to this sudden stop, Clay’s arm made contact with Nixon’s right shoulder. Nixon then felt his left knee pop. Both men fell to the ground,” Justice Lee wrote. “The referee determined that the contact was not intentional and warranted only a common foul. Nixon unfortunately sustained a serious knee injury in the collision.”

Nixon eventually sued Clay, alleging his negligence caused the injury. A Provo court granted Clay’s request to dismiss the case, declaring that basketball is a “contact sport.” It then declared that Nixon’s injury was not the result of willful or reckless behavior, but inherent with basketball, Justice Lee wrote.

The Utah Supreme Court sided with Clay and upheld the personal injury lawsuit’s dismissal. But the Court took it further, essentially ruling that there is risk of injury in all sports — not just sports where contact takes place.

“The game of tennis does not involve frequent bodily contact among participants in the sport. For that reason this sport conceivably might not qualify as a ‘contact sport.’ But there are obvious risks of injurious contact in tennis. Players may anticipate getting hit with a tennis ball or colliding with a teammate during a doubles match. And tennis players in these situations should be exposed to no more liability for injuries caused by their contact than a basketball player who collided with another player during a game,” Justice Lee wrote.

Nixon’s attorney was out of town and did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. In a statement, Clay’s attorneys Sadé Turner, Karmen Schmid and Scarlet Smith said he had been “vindicated.”

“The Utah Supreme Court’s decision is a win for everyone. The decision means Utahns can play hard at the sports they love without worrying about a potential lawsuit for injuries sustained in competition. We are very pleased the Court offered such clear and simple direction,” Turner wrote.
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Why does church basketball have this reputation for being so violent and physical?  Are we venting our anger on the court instead of during normal life?
 

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Maybe it is a combination of a lack of trained refs, a desire to show off, and a need to compensate for poor skills by resorting to rough play. There is a apocryphal story about Hulk Hogan . When asked about roughness in the pro-wrestling ring, his comment was " that is nothing, I've played LDS Church basketball. ". If the statement wasn't made, it sure could have been.☺️

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terrible ruling. I hope scholastic and professional sports clubs will either boycot Utah or make some other show of "force" to have Utah adopt a standard that does not provide near unrestricted violent and abusive contact. 

This is a terrible ruling as the Utah Supreme Courts has effectively ruled that flagrant injurious behavior is an accepted risk. 

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Sounds like a common sense ruling. I know that is almost unheard of anymore, but I am gladdened that common sense at least occasionally is used in the Law. Now, if we just get it into the Legislative Branch, we might actually begin to govern better. 

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26 minutes ago, bluebell said:

 It specifically does not cover flagrant injurious behavior.

I agree. The article states "We instead hold that participants in any sport are not liable for injuries caused by their conduct if their conduct was inherent in the sport,”
Flagrant injurious behavior behavior that is not inherent in the sport can and should be prosecuted regardless of whether it is on the basketball court or out on the street. 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, bluebell said:

I disagree.  Since they clearly outlined that the action must be "conduct inherent in the sport" the ruling definitely does not provide near unrestricted violent and abusive contact.  The only contact that would be covered would be that which is inherit to the sport being played.  It specifically does not cover flagrant injurious behavior.

 

1 hour ago, JAHS said:

I agree. The article states "We instead hold that participants in any sport are not liable for injuries caused by their conduct if their conduct was inherent in the sport,”
Flagrant injurious behavior behavior that is not inherent in the sport can and should be prosecuted regardless of whether it is on the basketball court or out on the street. 

The inherent contact analysis established by the Court involves whether or not the injurious contact is part of a strategy. Lets not pretend that strategy does not involve injury to opposing players.

 

Paragraph 29 

When  determining  whether  contact,  prohibited  or  not  by  the rules,  is  an  inherent  risk  of  the  sport,  courts  should  consider  factors like  the  frequency  at  which  this  type  of  contact  occurs,  the circumstances  in  which  it  occurred,  whether  the  contact  is  an  aspect of  the  regular  strategy  of  the  game,  and  the  severity  of  the  sanction imposed  by  game  officials

Edited by provoman

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39 minutes ago, provoman said:

Lets not pretend that strategy does not involve injury to opposing players

You think he was intentionally trying to hurt the other player?

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10 hours ago, JAHS said:

.......................................................

Why does church basketball have this reputation for being so violent and physical?  Are we venting our anger on the court instead of during normal life?
 

The Utah Supreme Court said it:  It's inherent in the game.  Get over it.  :pirate:

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44 minutes ago, provoman said:

Lets not pretend that strategy does not involve injury to opposing players.

I would think that such actions would be fairly obvious and would therefore be prohibited by the rules. 

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, provoman said:

terrible ruling. I hope scholastic and professional sports clubs will either boycot Utah or make some other show of "force" to have Utah adopt a standard that does not provide near unrestricted violent and abusive contact. 

This is a terrible ruling as the Utah Supreme Courts has effectively ruled that flagrant injurious behavior is an accepted risk. 

I very much disagree.  Basket ball is a contact sport.  Fouls happen.  It is part of the game.  You cannot hold players liable for playing the game.  

Edited by sunstoned
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1 hour ago, provoman said:

 

The inherent contact analysis established by the Court involves whether or not the injurious contact is part of a strategy. Lets not pretend that strategy does not involve injury to opposing players.

 

You were there?  You  saw what happened?  You sound like a ambulance chaser.  I have played organized sports all my life, in my experience it is extremely rare that any kind of spots strategy would involve a deliberate attempt to injury.

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1 hour ago, provoman said:

 

The inherent contact analysis established by the Court involves whether or not the injurious contact is part of a strategy. Lets not pretend that strategy does not involve injury to opposing players.

Do you remember that face that Danny Ainge used to make when things didn't go his way? That is the face I see when I read this comment above I put in bold type. It is the mindset of a whiner. No, Danny, sometimes crap happens and folks collide. No, they are not trying to hurt you, but they are trying to actually play the game to the best of their ability. Now, wipe that whiny face off and let's play ball. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, provoman said:

 

The inherent contact analysis established by the Court involves whether or not the injurious contact is part of a strategy. Lets not pretend that strategy does not involve injury to opposing players.

 

Paragraph 29 

When  determining  whether  contact,  prohibited  or  not  by  the rules,  is  an  inherent  risk  of  the  sport,  courts  should  consider  factors like  the  frequency  at  which  this  type  of  contact  occurs,  the circumstances  in  which  it  occurred,  whether  the  contact  is  an  aspect of  the  regular  strategy  of  the  game,  and  the  severity  of  the  sanction imposed  by  game  officials

It involves whether or not the contact was an aspect of the regular strategy of the game. 

Using strategy to intentionally harm is not a part of the regular strategy of any sports game and so that kind of strategy was not established by the courts in any way. 

Edited by bluebell
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7 minutes ago, bluebell said:

It involves whether or not the contact was an aspect of the regular strategy of the game. 

Using strategy to intentionally harm is not a part of the regular strategy of any sports game and so that kind of strategy was not established by the courts in any way. 

You are entitled to your belief. My statement is based having had discussions with athletes who intentional injured opposing players as a strategy.

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2 hours ago, Calm said:

You think he was intentionally trying to hurt the other player?

I've seen it while watching three sons play church b-ball, but pretty minor stuff. Except for when one of my sons played with the Elders/HP and one of the guys on the other team picked up my son and threw him to the ground, according to my son. It's lucky I wasn't at that particular game! 😞

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I do think there are some players who either get off on hurting others or need to win so badly they don’t care about hurting people, but I think most just get carried away in the moment with adrenaline and stop thinking about it. Competition can be fun if not taken too seriously.  There is a reason why kids left to themselves will start playing ball or having races or jump rope contests.

If everyone goes into the game understanding that will happen, to me that is different than say intentionally slamming an elbow into a face in a calculating manner.

Edited by Calm
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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, provoman said:

 

The inherent contact analysis established by the Court involves whether or not the injurious contact is part of a strategy. Lets not pretend that strategy does not involve injury to opposing players.

[Excerpt from opinion omitted.]

There are strategies, and then there are strategies:

Strategy #1 -- Comment overheard in huddle during time out: "Obviously, #12 is their best player.  He's going to keep eating us alive unless we do something different defensively.  If they're going to beat us, we've got to double-team him every time he gets the ball and make somebody else beat us."

"Strategy" #2 -- Comment overheard in huddle during time out: "Obviously, #12 is their best player.  We can't make it look too obvious, but if anyone gets a chance and can make it look like 'just one of those unfortunate things that sometimes happens in a game,' let's take him out."

You think the Court's endorsing "Strategy" #2 instead of Strategy #1, (and not only endorsing "Strategy" #2, but doing so unanimously)?  You think that not even one justice had the courage to stand up "on his hind legs," as the professor I mention below likes to say, to his or her colleagues who, blatantly, were endorsing flagrant, deliberately-outside-the-rules conduct? I'll hasten to add that I haven't yet read the opinion, but I don't. 

On the rare occasions when one of my professors heard something he thought was insightful from one of his students, who didn't really know anything about torts (thank God for him, and his willingness to save us from our ignorance! :rolleyes:;)), he would say, "I like it."  One of the rarer occasions when he heard something he thought was insightful from me was when I drew a distinction between injuries which are caused flagrantly and those that occur in the normal course of a game:

Offensive player makes normal offensive move; defensive player [tries to] stop offensive player using normal defensive move which, unfortunately, results in injury to the former?  Tough break (well, hopefully not literally) but no liability.

Offensive player makes normal offensive move; defensive player, fearing that his very manhood will be called into question if he does not go to unusual lengths to stop offensive player, seriously injures offensive player by "clothes-lining" him, deliberately striking him about his head or across his neck?  Liability in spades!

You don't think the Court recognizes that distinction?

Edited by Kenngo1969
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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Tacenda said:

I've seen it while watching three sons play church b-ball, but pretty minor stuff. Except for when one of my sons played with the Elders/HP and one of the guys on the other team picked up my son and threw him to the ground, according to my son. It's lucky I wasn't at that particular game! 😞

 

 

Church "basketball" meets World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment?  Sheesh! :rolleyes:

At least in WWE, they agree beforehand who's gonna be the hero and who's gonna be the "heel"!

And, obviously, you don't understand what's at stake in situations such as this, Tacenda!

The winner enjoys bragging rights for years ...

... I mean months ...

... I mean days ...

... I mean hours ...

... I mean minutes ...

I mean, the winners savor the victory ... at least for as long as it takes them to walk off the court when the game is over!

:rolleyes:

I admit, there are still some moments from church basketball I savor, but not because of any misguided attempt to hold onto the long-since-faded glory of athletic conquest, but simply because I'm so athletically disinclined (and that's putting it mildly) that such rare moments of glory really stand out! :D 

Edited by Kenngo1969

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7 hours ago, provoman said:

You are entitled to your belief. My statement is based having had discussions with athletes who intentional injured opposing players as a strategy.

You think that the Utah Supreme Court is using the word "strategy" in the same way that the players in your straw poll* were using it (*or was it a statistically-valid, randomly-selected, scientific survey)?

"Strategy" #1: "Rickety-rickety ree!  Kick 'em in the knee!  Rickety-rickety rass!  Kick 'em in the ... other knee!" vs.

Strategy #2: "Guys, #12 is killin' us!  Let's switch to a box-and-one!"

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8 hours ago, provoman said:

You are entitled to your belief. My statement is based having had discussions with athletes who intentional injured opposing players as a strategy.

It’s not my belief it’s what the court is saying.

I’m not disagreeing that people sometimes have such strategies, I’m saying that the judge was clear that those kinds of strategies aren’t covered by the ruling.

Those athletes would be liable for injuries they caused.

 

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Posted (edited)

I think this little snippet from the opinion is interesting, and bears directly on whether the Utah Supreme Court is endorsing a "take-him-out 'strategy'" (ellipses mine):

Quote

If a participant in a sport initiated contact for the sole purpose of injuring a co-participant . . . and not for a purpose that is strategic to or inherent in the game, that may suggest that the contact was not inherent.

Nixon v. Clay, 2019 UT 32 ¶25.  The full opinion is available on line here (last accessed today): https://www.utcourts.gov/opinions/supopin/Nixon v. Clay20190711_20170532_32.pdf.

Edited by Kenngo1969
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3 hours ago, Kenngo1969 said:

Church "basketball" meets World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment?  Sheesh! :rolleyes:

At least in WWE, they agree beforehand who's gonna be the hero and who's gonna be the "heel"!

And, obviously, you don't understand what's at stake in situations such as this, Tacenda!

The winner enjoys bragging rights for years ...

... I mean months ...

... I mean days ...

... I mean hours ...

... I mean minutes ...

I mean, the winners savor the victory ... at least for as long as it takes them to walk off the court when the game is over!

:rolleyes:

I admit, there are still some moments from church basketball I savor, but not because of any misguided attempt to hold onto the long-since-faded glory of athletic conquest, but simply because I'm so athletically disinclined (and that's putting it mildly) that such rare moments of glory really stand out! :D 

I'm sure my son made the person mad. Poor kid, he and his brothers would say while little that they wanted to be professional basketball players. They now range to be around 5'7. He would try to make up for it and jump pretty high. I've seen him jump over a player to make a slam dunk while playing competively. So I'm sure he made the older gentlemen sooo mad at him. 

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Posted (edited)

More. However individual players (or teams) might be using the term "strategy," and whether or not such a "strategy" might involve deciding or conspiring to injure another player deliberately, in footnote 12, the Court specifically says that its opinion in Nixon should not be read as embracing such "strategies" (bold mine):
 

Quote

 

This [inherency] inquiry may leave some difficult cases at the margins. But there will also be easy cases at opposite ends of the spectrum. A common personal foul involving a routine basketball move (like an attempt at the ball that results in a hack across the arm), for example, is easily classified as inherent in the game of basketball, as it is frequent, results only in a minor sanction, and is obviously strategic. See NBA OFFICIAL, Rule No.12: Fouls and Penalties, https://official.nba.com/rule-no-12-fouls-and-penalties/ (last visited July 10, 2019) (explaining that many routine personal fouls may result in a free throw or the ball being taken out of bounds and inbounded by the other team).An example of non-inherent contact in basketball, by contrast, might involve a bench-clearing brawl in which punches are thrown at an opponent. This is unfortunately not unheard of. But it is infrequent, not a matter of the regular strategy of basketball, and results in severe sanctions (ejection and even suspension and fines). NBA OFFICIAL, Rule No. 12: Fouls and Penalties, Section VI—Fighting Fouls https://official.nba.com/rule-no-12-fouls-and-penalties/#fightingfouls (last visited July 10, 2019)(explaining that players are immediately ejected and fines and suspensions can be levied against players who fight during a game); 3 NBA stars suspended after Lakers-Rockets fight, alleged spitting, CBS NEWS (Oct. 22, 2018, 6:36 AM), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/lakers-rockets-brawl-nba-suspends-brandon-ingram-rajon-rondo-chris-paul/ (discussing the suspension of three NBA players after a fight during a basketball game).

This latter example also highlights the danger in attributing too much significance to the “strategic” nature of an act. A player could conceivably find some strategic value in throwing a punch at a star player from the other team—in an attempt to prompt a fight or otherwise take him out of the game. But that sort of move is not part of the regular strategy of basketball. And it would not be inherent in basketball because it is (thankfully) sufficiently infrequent that no reasonable basketball player would be seen as impliedly consenting to this kind of contact.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Kenngo1969
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Posted (edited)
18 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

I'm sure my son made the person mad. Poor kid, he and his brothers would say while little that they wanted to be professional basketball players. They now range to be around 5'7. He would try to make up for it and jump pretty high. I've seen him jump over a player to make a slam dunk while playing competively. So I'm sure he made the older gentlemen sooo mad at him. 

He made him mad by being better than the guy who got mad at him?  Shame, shame, shame!!! :angry:  Rule #1 in Competitive Sports: "Thou shalt not show up thine opponent, especially not when thine opponent thinks he is better than thou art." ;)

Edited by Kenngo1969

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