Can You Sue a Sports Official?

 

By Jedidiah McKeehan

The world of youth sports is a crazy place.  Parents take their children’s tee-ball games way too seriously and the internet seems to explode once a week with brawls between parents at sporting events.  There was one such video recently where an AAU basketball team fought two referees.

As an attorney, seeing these videos leads me to believe that we are not far from irate parents suing sports officials for making decisions that they believe cost their children a game.

Thankfully, our legislators have put in place some statutes that address the possibility of someone attempting to sue a sports official.  First, Tennessee Code Annotated section 62-50-201 defines a “sports official” as, “any person who serves as referee, umpire, linesperson or in any similar capacity in supervising or administering a sports event and is registered and has received training as a sports official.”

The next statute, section 62-50-202, states that a sports official working in their official capacity is not liable to any person or entity in any civil action for damages to a player, participant or spectator as a result of the official’s act of commission or omission arising out of the official’s duties or activities.”  This means that you cannot sue a sports official for something you believe they screwed up while they are acting as a sports official.

There is one caveat to this, section 62-50-203 states that if the sports official is found to be acting intentionally or with gross negligence they are not immune to suit.  I do not know how you would be able to go about proving that a sports official intentionally screwed up or was grossly negligent, but if you are dead set on suing an official, this is what you must prove.

Finally, I would point out, if you are going to sue a sports official, you have to show them missing a foul, or calling a strike when they should have called a ball caused you actual damages.  Losing a game may not be fun or may make you mad, but I do not know that it would rise to the level of causing you damages that are worth suing over.

 

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.

 

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