Premier New England Trial Attorneys

The Right Call For Referees

Sports referees are subjected to a lot. Something they should not be subjected to is a lawsuit for simply doing their job. Melick & Porter’s defense of the sports and recreation case of Borella v. Mahoney will be of help to any referee subjected to such a lawsuit. Borella, a 17 year old hockey player was checked and injured by another player during a game. He sued the referees seeking to hold them legally responsible because a few fans and one player thought that missed calls resulted in an “out of control” game. Melick & Porter attorney, Bill Keville, persuaded the Superior Court to enter summary judgment arguing that such opinion evidence is insufficient to justify a jury trial. Borella appealed. Attorney Mike Byrne argued that the lack of specific evidence of any fight, animosity or particular missed call affecting the involved players justified the result. The Appeals Court agreed that referees may not be subject to legal liability based upon conclusory statements about their performance. The Supreme Judicial Court recently denied Borella’s request for further appellate review, resulting in a big win for all referees. Although players and fans may continue to voice opinions about game refereeing, referees may not be subject to legal liability where the objective facts show that they reasonably sought to enforce the rules of competition. If you have a question about sports and recreational matters, please do not hesitate to call Bill Keville.