How Does the Contact Sports Exception Affect Youth Sports Injury Cases?

Youth athletics are an important part of American culture, but the potential for injury is very high. Especially in sports like football, many young athletes face potentially serious and even life-threatening injuries. Illinois negligence law has an exception concerning injuries sustained through participation in contact sports. This presents a difficult and often confusing situation for families and athletes injured while playing sports. All of the considerations these cases necessitate just compound the stress experienced when a loved one is injured. What is the Contact Sports Exception? Due to the voluntary nature of contact sports, the courts have created an exception for negligence claims in Illinois. Contact sport participants may be held liable for injuries to others caused by willful and wanton or intentional conduct. Ordinary negligence, however, is considered to be an inherent part of contact sports. At the most fundamental level, the contact sports exception to Illinois’ negligence laws is a judicially created exception. This means that courts have created a systematic method for assessing negligence related to injuries in contact sports. This exception was not written into the statute by the state legislature. How and Why the Exception was Created and Later Expanded  The courts, as public institutions, have a duty to take public policy considerations into account when interpreting statutory law. The Illinois Supreme Court rendered a decision in the case of Pfister v. Shusta, which provides the rationale for the exception. In this case, a college student was injured during an informal game and the court barred the student from recovering damages under an ordinary negligence claim. The Illinois Supreme Court in the Pfister decision intended to strike a balance between society’s interest in limiting liability for injuries sustained through physical contact inherent to a contact sport and allowing recovery for injuries caused by intentional misconduct. They asserted that participants in games such as soccer, football, softball, basketball, or any game involving potential physical contact are assuming responsibility for the associated risks. In 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court rendered a decision in the case of Karas v. Strevell. In this case, a hockey player was injured during a game when checked from behind. However, at the time of the accident the league had a rule in place prohibiting body checks, even printing, “STOP” onto the backs of jerseys. The plaintiff in Karas sued the players who caused the injury, the opposing hockey team, the hockey officials’ organization, and the hockey league. Their claim of negligence rested on the assertion that the defendants acted with willful and wonton conduct. The Supreme Court threw out the plaintiff’s claims against all of the defendants. Simply stated, their decision was that rules violations do not constitute willful negligence as defined in Pfister. These are an inherent part of the sport, which is evidenced by the presence of officials who monitor and punish rules violations. How Recent Cases Impact the Contact Sports Exception Recent decisions in the Illinois Appellate Court have declined to expand this exception. In Weisberg v. Chicago Steel (2009), an athletic trainer working for an outside company was struck in the face by a hockey puck while in the bench area refilling water bottles. Because the trainer was not doing anything inherent to the sport, the exception was not applied. Many parents and athletes may be unaware that schools and youth athletics leagues in Illinois are shielded in some cases from liability in personal injury cases arising out of sports injuries. Especially in cases where an athlete sustains a traumatic brain injury, it is important to get the best representation possible.

2015 Tech Week Chicago

  2015 Techweek Chicago | June 22nd-28th Merchandise Mart 222 West Merchandise Mart Plaza Chicago, IL 60654  The Law Office of Eugene K Hollander is proud to announce that it will be a City Partner of the 2015 Techweek Chicago Expo. Come join us for seven days of more than 200 tech industry speakers and more than 2,800 participating companies from around the Chicago area and the world in a celebration of everything tech. Techweek Chicago does an amazing job of not only highlighting and featuring established brands, products, and services, but the Techweek Expo at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, IL also realizes people attending want to see and learn all about the new up and coming startups with tons of potential. Check out the highlights from Techweek Chicago 2014

Hollander Law Offices Files Pregnancy Case Against John Barleycorn

Jacquelyn Johnson loved her job as a Bartender at John Barleycorn in Schaumburg.  All that changed however, when she learned that she was pregnant, and informed her employer this past New Year's Eve.  Immediately afterward, Ms. Johnson found that she was no longer scheduled to work the very lucrative parties provided by the bar.  Two weeks later, the General Manager sent her a text message, "Hey, I can't have you work while you are pregnant.  It's too much of a liability for the bar...It's from upper management."  Shocked and saddened, Ms. Johnson filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.  On July 17, 2014, The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging pregnancy discrimination.  The story was carried by NBC Chicago.

Cardinal George Provides Trial Testimony in Sexual Abuse Litigation

Last Thursday, Archbishop Cardinal George provided videotaped trial testimony in the sexual abuse cases involving former priest Daniel McCormack.  Though the Cardinal had been deposed three times before, those depositions were for discovery purposes, which are generally not admissible at trial.  This time, because of the Cardinal's health, his trial testimony was taken in advance.  Should one or more of the nineteen pending cases proceed to trial, the videotape can be shown to the jury at that time.  Mr. Hollander's first case is scheduled for trial in May, 2015.  Because of a protective order entered by the Court, the Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander cannot comment on the substance of the Cardinal's testimony at this time.  We can report, however, that the Cardinal was questioned for about 6 hours, by two of the Plaintiffs' attorneys, including Eugene K. Hollander.  Deposition testimony resumes today, June 3.

Madonia Case Attracts International Press

Last Tuesday, we reported that our office filed a new lawsuit, Madonia v. S 37 Management, et. al. The lawsuit alleged violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as a COBRA violation after her employer allegedly fired her within days after learning of her stage III esophogeal cancer diagnosis.  We did not expect the national and international interest in the story.  The story was widely reported in the United States, The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom, as well as on websites in Australia, Italy, Estonia and Zimbabwe.  For those who wish to aid Elisa financially to defray medical expense while her case winds through the court system, you can seek to make contributions here:

Hollander Law Offices Files New Disability Discrimination Suit

Elisa Madonia was formerly employed by S 37 Management, Inc. as a Customer Service Representative.  During the summer of 2013, her throat began to bother her.  She had taken a few days leave with her employer's permission.  All that changed in mid-October last year.  Madonia, unfortunately, was diagnosed with Stage III esophogeal cancer.  Her oncologist sent a note to her employer regarding the diagnosis.  Six days later, her employer fired her.  They told her that if the health insurance carrier found out that she was working less than full time, then she would be responsible for paying her medical expenses.  In an effort to pressure her to sign a release, which would have waived all of her employment claims, the employer told her that they would pay her COBRA premiums for seven months.  They also demanded an immediate payment for the premium in order to continue her health insurance coverage.  Madonia declined to execute the document, and retained The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander to represent her.  On January 29, 2014, the law firm filed suit on Madonia's behalf, alleging violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act and COBRA.  CBS Channel 2 Chicago also covered the story.

Hollander Law Offices Wins Seventh Circuit Decision on FMLA

Beverly Ballard was formerly employed by the Chicago Park District.  In April,, 2006, her mother was diagnosed with end-stage congestive heart failure and began receiving hospice support.  Beverly lived with her mother, Sarah, and cooked for her, administered insulin and other medication, bathed and dressed her, and got her ready for bed.  In 2007, Sarah said that she always wanted to take a family trip to Las Vegas.  A social worker was able to secure funding through the Fairy Godmother Foundation, a nonprofit organization which facilitated opportunities like these for terminally-ill adults.  Beverly requested unpaid leave through her employer.  The Park District ultimately denied the request.  Beverly took her mother on the trip - they engaged in typical tourist activities, but Beverly also provided care to her mother during the trip.  Several months later, the Park District terminated Beverly's employment for exercising unauthorized absences accumulated during her trip.  Beverly filed suit, claiming that the termination violated the Family and Medical Leave Act, ("FMLA").  Her employer sought dismissal of the case, and a federal district court denied the motion, reasoning that Beverly provided care to her mother during the trip.  In a case of first impression in our Seventh Circuit, the federal appellate court held that it did not matter where Beverly cared for her mother, and thus was protected under the FMLA.  The Court upheld the lower court's decision.  Paul Ryan, who handled the matter at the trial court and appellate levels, said, "This is a great victory for employees.  They should not be afraid to care for a loved one, if it involves travel away from home."  We will keep you posted as the case progresses.

New McCormack Victim Goes Public

Numerous sexual abuse claims have been filed against the Archdiocese of Chicago by victims of convicted sex offender Daniel McCormack, however, there was a new development yesterday.  A 27 year old man, Darryl McArthur, filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, alleging that he was molested by the former priest when he was at St. Ailbe Parish, starting in 1994.  Many lawsuits against the Archdiocese have been filed in the Circuit Court for similar allegations, but all of the victims have elected to file under a pseudonym, John Doe.  This is not uncommon in molestation cases.  To date, none of the abuse cases involving McCormack have proceeded to trial.  They have all been settled.  The first one which is scheduled for trial is set for April, 2014.  The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander currently has lawsuits pending in the Circuit Court for six different victims.  These victims were either abused while at St. Agatha's Parish or at St. Ailbe's.  A number of the victims were involved in an aftercare program, known as SAFE.  Most of those victims have attempted to settle their claims through a mediation process known as the Advisory Panel, but they have not yet been resolved.  McCormack pled guilty in 2007 to sexually abusing five victims.

Illinois Appellate Court Holds That Two Years of Continuous Employment Necessary to Enforce Restrictive Covenants

In a very significant ruling, the Illinois Appellate Court has held that in order to enforce a restrictive covenant against an employee, the employee must work for the employer for at least two years continuously following execution of the document.  Restrictive covenants are often used by employers to bar an employee for working for a competitor or even working in the same field for a specified period of time in the event that the employee separates his employment from the employer.  Oftentimes, this restriction places a huge burden on the employee, freezing him out of legitimate work opportunities.  On the other hand, the employer often contends that it has legitimate business interests to protect and would be damaged if the employee left and took his knowledge with him to a competitor.  Court in the past had suggested that one year of post-employment was necessary.  It should be noted that this opinion was issued by one district of the appellate court (covering the Chicago area) and is not binding statewide; however, it is likely to be very influential in litigation in this area.

Supreme Court Decides Who Is A Supervisor

In resolving a conflict between the federal circuits, the high court determined who constitutes a supervisor for purposes of employment discrimination cases.  Maetta Vance accused a co-worker, Davis, of racially harassing her and retaliating against her at her employment at Ball State University in 2005.  She sued the school under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming that the school should be responsible since Davis was a supervisor.  A federal judge dismissed her claim, holding that Davis could not fire her since she was only a co-worker.  The Seventh Circuit Court of appeals upheld the ruling.   Vance appealed to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court sided with the lower courts, ruling that for the university to be liable, Davis must have had the authority to "hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline" Vance.  While a disappointment for the employed, the decision will no doubt provide greater clarity in litigating these cases.