Court Permits Victim of “Horseplay” to Pursue Punitive Damages Against Fellow Student

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an interesting personal injury case involving a student who ran over the feet of another student while engaging in what the court characterized as horseplay. The opinion is an interesting one and raises several issues that are relevant to Virginia car accident plaintiffs, including under which circumstances punitive damages may be available.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a teenage girl who was the manager of the school’s baseball team. The defendant, a senior at the school, was a player on the team. One day, before the team boarded a bus to go to an away game, the defendant went to move his car so that he would be closer to the bus stop once the team returned.

Once the defendant reached his car and was on his way to re-park it, he saw the plaintiff walking in the parking lot. He approached the plaintiff from behind, and the plaintiff stepped aside to avoid being hit. However, the defendant’s 1.5-ton truck ran over both of the plaintiff’s feet. Another student lifted the plaintiff into the defendant’s truck to get medical attention. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant told her he was “sorry” and that he “only intended to bump her.” The defendant denied making this statement.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, making several claims. Relevant to this case was the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages against the defendant.

The Court’s Analysis

The lower court initially concluded that the plaintiff’s pleadings, coupled with the evidence, were insufficient to allow the jury to determine whether punitive damages were appropriate. The plaintiff appealed to an appellate court.

On appeal, the court concluded that the plaintiff should be permitted to pursue a punitive damages claim against the defendant. The court held that, regardless of whether the defendant stated “I only meant to bump you,” the evidence allows an inference to be made that the defendant acted with the requisite level of recklessness to allow the plaintiff to seek punitive damages. The court noted that the defendant approached the plaintiff from behind with a 1.5-ton truck and proceeded to get close enough to run over her feet. Even if the defendant did not intend to strike the plaintiff with the truck, the court determined that his actions in getting so close allowed the jury to consider the conduct under a punitive damages analysis.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at the law offices of Charles B. Roberts, P.C. have extensive experience handling a wide range of Virginia car accident claims, and they aggressively pursue compensation on behalf of their clients. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated Virginia personal injury attorney about your case, call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation today.

See More Blog Posts:

Court Rejects City’s Assertion of Government Immunity in Recent Premises Liability Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, December 11, 2017.

Discovery Sanctions in Virginia Personal Injury Cases, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, November 27, 2017.