My daughter was hurt in a soccer game because the ref refused to reign in a reckless player on the opposing team. Can I sue? My son is devastated because he was improperly called out on strikes by a blind umpire. Can I sue?
Setting aside the merits of these complaints, or the wisdom of pursing such a claim, Tennessee law gives a relatively high level of immunity to sports officials. Under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 62-50-201, a “’sports official’ means "any person who serves as referee, umpire, linesperson or in any similar capacity in supervising or administering a sports event and who is registered as a member of a local, state, regional or national organization that provides training and educational opportunities for sports officials."
Section 62-50-202 provides that "[a] sports official who administers or supervises a sports event at any level of competition is not liable to any person or entity in any civil action for damages to a player, participant or spectator as a result of the sports official’s act of commission or omission arising out of the sports official’s duties or activities."
Section 62-50-203 limits Section 202 and says that "civil immunity [is not granted] to a sports official who intentionally or by gross negligence inflicts injury or damage to a person or entity."
Thus, under Tennessee law, a person trying to sue a ref has a very difficult hill to climb. Indeed, absent intentional conduct or misconduct under the influence of drugs or alcohol, I have a difficult time imagining how a claim against a ref would be successful.