Mercier v. Greenwich Academy Inc.
A school may not owe a duty to an opponent's player, to provide the injured player with help from a sports trainer. In 2011, the plaintiff, Jessica Mercier, was a member of the varsity women's basketball team at Westminster School, when the Westminster team played Greenwich Academy. An opponent allegedly struck Mercier in the head, and her coach, Bryan Tawney, called a timeout. Allegedly, Mercier informed Tawney that she felt dizzy and that her eyes were blurry. After she was on the bench several minutes, Tawney asked whether she was ready to play. Mercier re-entered the game, and an opponent allegedly struck her in the head. Mercier sat out the rest of the game. Mercier sued Tawney and the trustees of Westminster school, alleging negligence, negligence per se and recklessness, because a sports trainer should have examined her and not permitted her to play, if Mercier had a concussion. The Westminster defendants moved to dismiss. In Jaworski v. Kiernan, a 1997 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court adopted a recklessness or intentional conduct standard of care for participants in contact team sports. The Jaworski court conducted a threshold inquiry to ask whether the harm was foreseeable and then considered the extent of the co-participant's responsibility. Here, it was reasonably foreseeable that a player who has been struck on the head and complains about dizziness and blurred vision could be injured, if permitted to keep playing. Because the Connecticut Supreme Court would hold the Westminster defendants to a recklessness or intentional conduct standard of care, the District Court granted the Westminster defendants' motion to dismiss negligence and negligence per se counts. Allegations that Greenwich Academy negligently failed to provide the plaintiff assistance from its sports trainer were insufficient, because the plaintiff failed to adequately allege that Greenwich Academy owed her a duty. "Unless some relationship exists between the person injured and the defendant by which the latter owes a duty to the former, there can be no liability for negligence," pursuant to Frankovitch v. Burton, a 1981 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. The District Court granted Greenwich Academy's motion to dismiss.