COURTS TACKLE HOCKEY FAN FIGHTS

I am admitted to the bar in two great states, Arizona and New York.

I have enjoyed hockey since my youth. I well remember listening to Marv Albert call Rangers’ games on our small radio. There were only six teams in the league, New York being the southern-most. That I would one day attend NHL games in Glendale, AZ, was beyond all imagination.

So as I often do when I am not diligently pursuing my clients’ matters, I was amusing myself by reading the output of appellate courts (I admit it: I’m sick). I discovered that, on the same day, courts in both states issued opinions about hockey fan fights.

A youth hockey tournament of 13-year-old players took place in Rome, New York, a/k/a the “Copper City”. The spectators were mostly relatives of the players. The game was marked by on-ice fisticuffs and ejection of one of the coaches.

After the game, two female spectators got into a fight. Although the opinion does not tell us their relationship to the on-ice combatants, it does bring to mind Sara Palin’s speech about hockey moms and pit bulls with lipstick. In the ensuing melee, the plaintiff tried to break up the fight only to get clocked by one woman’s brother.

The plaintiff sued the youth hockey association for failing to maintain order and to enforce its “zero tolerance” policy. New York’s high court held that the criminal conduct of the adults was not a foreseeable consequence of the league’s failure to eject any particular spectator, and so the league was off the hook.

Pink v Rome Youth Hockey Assn (Oct. 25, 2016).

Meanwhile, back in the “Copper State” of Arizona, a Mr. Franklin was intoxicated at a hockey game and began to direct insults and profanities as some of the other spectators. One Blanchard felt a “thud” on his head, and turned to see Franklin making obscene gestures and otherwise acting in a disordered manner. Blanchard punched Franklin in the head, Franklin then spit on Clemett, and Clemett responded by punching Franklin twice in the head.

Franklin then sued Blanchard and Clemett (in New York they call that “chutzpah”). Blanchard and Clemett raised the defense of Franklin’s drunkenness. By Arizona statute (A.R.S. § 12-711), you can’t collect anything for your injury if you are at least half at fault due to intoxication. The judge instructed the jury on this law and Franklin got zilch.

Franklin told the Arizona Court of Appeals that the jury instructions violated a provision in the Arizona constitution that requires questions of contributory negligence to be decided by a jury. The Court of Appeals found that there was “ample evidence Franklin was under the influence of an intoxicating liquor”, and that the jury properly applied the intoxication defense. So, for now, Franklin still gets zilch, and owes appeal costs to boot.

Franklin v Clemett (Oct. 25, 2016).

So in the Empire State and the Copper State, from the Copper City to the Valley of the Sun, players play their hockey, fans get out of hand, and justice is dispensed. It makes me feel somehow whole and connected.