Friday, July 22, 2005

Goalpost maker not responsible for Ball State student's paralysis

Sanity prevails in the courts today. In October 2001, Ball State students tore down a goalpost while celebrating a victory over Toledo. Tragically, a student was paralyzed when the goalpost fell on him. Ball State paid a settlement of $300,000 to compensate the student for his injuries due to their negligence in letting the students on the field. Seems like a fair settlement, as this was the most that they could pay by law, and that BSU does have a responsibility to keep people off the field of play (even though this student was also improperly on the field and holds responsibility as well, IMHO, but I digress).

The victim of this injury, though, decided to sue the goalpost maker, claiming negligence of the company for not manufacturing the goalposts to hold the weight of these students hanging on/sitting on/trying to tear down the goalposts. Ignoring the fact that goalposts are not necessarily designed to be hung on/sat on/tear-down resistant, since that is not part of the game and thus not part of their purpose.

The courts saw it this way as well. Judge David Hamilton states in his opinion that this student "and any other reasonable observer knew the mob of students was trying to pull the structure down. The risk was obvious, and the goal post was therefore not unreasonably dangerous under Indiana law". Bravo to him. The attorney for the goalpost manufacturer states that "the real issue in this has to do with letting fans on the field in the first place to tear down goal posts," and hence the BSU settlement.

As much as I feel for this kid and his family, he knew what the risks were. He may or may not have been trying to tear down the goalpost himself. He put himself in the position to be injured regardless. To say that the person who builds this piece of equipment is responsible for injuries related to its improper use makes about as much sense as saying a baseball bat manufacturer is responsible if someone hits you over the head with the bat. The people doing the act (as well as, indirectly, Ball State in this instance) are responsible, not the maker of the equipment.

Ball State, in the meantime, has installed newer, sturdier goal posts to stop this from happening again. The lack of wins also helps...


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