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High School Coach Sued after Freshman Ruins Ankle Sliding Into Third. Seven Years Later, the Trial Begins. Is This the End of Youth Sports?

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Read Time: 2 minutes

Enormous kudos to Steve Politi for writing such a gripping story in that my heart is STILL pounding. It begins:

John Suk sits with shoulders slouched and his head down at the defendant’s table in Courtroom 301, a stuffy wood-paneled space inside the Somerset County judicial complex. The 31-year-old middle school teacher scribbles in a notebook as his reputation is shredded.

The plaintiff’s attorneys in Civil Docket No. L-000629-15 have spent two full days portraying the co-defendant as an inattentive and unqualified lout. He is, they argue, a villain who destroyed the future of a teenager he was supposed to protect.

“He must be held accountable for what he did,” one of the plaintiff’s two attorneys tells jurors during opening arguments.

The attacks intensify when Suk takes the witness stand to defend himself on a split-second decision he made seven years earlier. He is accused of taking a reckless course of action that showed a callous disregard for another person’s safety.

He sounds like an awful person. Then you remember what Suk did to end up here.

He instructed a player he was coaching during a junior varsity baseball game to slide.

Not into an active volcano.

Not into a shark tank.

Into third base.

Here’s the killer graph:

I had come to Somerville ready to ridicule, but it doesn’t take long for the gravity of the situation to hit me. If this jury of four men and four women decides Suk was reckless as a third-base coach for making this most routine decision, who else will end up in a courtroom like this someday?

Read the rest here. It’s a long piece, and anxious readers wait, like Suk himself, for the jury’s decision.

Liability is the invisible force warping childhood, twisting relationships, turning trust to dust. Think how many forms you have to fill out just to let your kid go on a field trip, Think of how the playground has changed, as well as what kids are allowed to do on it. Think of the specter of lawsuits, outlandish and not, at school, at camp, at Scouts. It’s amazing anyone is willing to permit a child to do anything more than sit in a chair and draw with a non-toxic crayon.

Comment if you’d like, especially if you have any great ideas on how to get around this behemoth.


And thank you, Suzanne Lucas, a.k.a., RealEvilHRLady, for alerting us to this story.

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