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Personal Injury Litigation May Arise out of NFL Bounty Scandal

Some sports law and personal injury attorneys believe that the recent NFL bounty scandal may result in personal injury litigation. The NFL scandal erupted earlier this spring when it came to light that the New Orleans Saints had a bounty system which encouraged team members to injure their opponents.

The New York Times reports that it is likely that players injured as a result of this program may be able to file personal injury lawsuits and recoup damages for injuries that are tied to the bounty program.

"As a general rule, those who participate in sports assume the inherent risk of injury therein," a sports law scholar said. "I would see something as a bounty, where you're intending to injure someone so he's knocked out of the game, or reckless, the deliberate disregard of a high probability of harm - those are the types of situations where the courts have said: 'That's not a risk that people assume. There is potential liability to those who suffer injury.' "

Another sports law scholar said that the operative question is whether the bounties could be considered an ordinary part of the game. There's an additional issue of proof.

"How do you know if it's just a normal hit versus a hard hit delivered for $1,500?" the scholar asked.

There is also a possibility that the football team and its organizers may be held liable in any personal injury litigation arising out of the bounty program.

"Employers are liable for employees' torts committed within the scope of employment," the sports law scholar said. "If you could show the coaching staff directed this, the club could be liable."

Source: New York Times, "Teams Could be Held Liable for Injuries Traced to Bounties," Judy Battista, March, 4, 2012

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