Hockey Player’s Suit Against Parent Survives Summary Judgment

Oct 16, 2004

A court has denied a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a case where a 13-year-old hockey player claimed the defendant, the parent of another hockey player, inflicted “emotional distress” after an incident on the ice between the two players.
Viewing the “facts collectively in a light most favorable to (the plaintiff) … it is possible that (the plaintiff) was put in imminent apprehension by the defendant’s acts,” wrote the court.
The incident occurred during and after a December 10, 2001 game between the plaintiff’s team and the defendant’s son’s team.
During the game, the two junior players collided. “From the defendant’s perspective,” wrote the court, it appeared as if the plaintiff drove his hockey stick into the other player’s “right jaw and right neck,” causing an injury.
After the game, the injured player’s father appeared at the locker room of the plaintiff, and verbally threatened the plaintiff. In addition, the father had his son’s hockey stick in his left hand, which he allegedly used to point at the plaintiff as he spoke. The plaintiff testified that the father “looked as if the defendant would continue his advance toward him” had another coach not stepped between them.
The father testified that he happened onto the plaintiff’s locker room by accident and that he did make a derogatory comment about the plaintiff to the coach. He further claimed that he could not see the plaintiff when he made his comment. In addition, he maintained that he did not have a hockey stick with him at the time.
After the locker room incident, the plaintiff testified that he played down the incident, that he “didn’t want to make a big deal out of it” with his father. However, “there was a period of several games and weeks after the incident when he was not his usual self and when his play changed dramatically,” wrote the court. The plaintiff also saw a counselor for three sessions.
The plaintiff sued, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count I), civil assault (Count II) and punitive damages. The defendant moved for summary judgment.
The court began its analysis by noting that “an actor is subject to liability to another for assault if (a) he acts intending to cause a harmful or offensive contact with the person of the other or a third person, or an imminent apprehension of such a contact, and (b) the other is thereby put in such imminent apprehension.” Restatement (Second) Torts, § 21 (1965).
“Collectively, this testimony creates a dispute regarding whether the defendant acted intending to cause (the plaintiff) imminent harm or imminent apprehension of harm,” wrote the court. “There is also a dispute about whether Jordan was put in imminent apprehension by the defendant’s acts.”
Denying the summary judgment motion as it pertained to the civil assault claim, the court moved on to the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Again, the court found disputed facts, this time about “whether the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly to cause (the plaintiff) emotion harm. The same facts that create a dispute about the intent element of the civil assault claim also create a dispute about the intent element of (the plaintiff’s) claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress,” wrote the court, in denying the summary judgment motion on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. Hale et al. v. Antoniou, Superior Ct. Maine (Cumberland County), NO. CV-02-185, 7/29/04
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiffs) Michael Waxman, Portland, ME. (for defendant) Russell Pierce, Norman Hanson & Detroy, Portland, ME.


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