Are we liable for an injury that our son caused if the “victim” was the instigator by his actions?

UPDATED: Apr 11, 2013

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Are we liable for an injury that our son caused if the “victim” was the instigator by his actions?

My son who is 17 was playing basketball when an 18 year old tripped him intentionally. My son ignored the trip and continued playing. On the next play, the same 18 year old tried to hit my son in the privates with the basketball. My son stood up for himself and and punched the kid in the mouth. The 18 year old needed 11 stitches. He is requesting through a lawyer that we pay the out of pocket expenses for the medical attention.

Asked on April 11, 2013 under Personal Injury, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, it is likely that you are liable:

1) The right to self-defense ends when the attack ends; if the ball hit your son in the privates but there was no continuing attack on him, the attack was then over--your son had no legal right to "stand up for himself" and hit the other player. (Arguably "morally" he was right to do it--but legally he was not.)

2) It would be difficult to prove that the ball in privates was a deliberate attack anyway, and not merely a clumsy or overly excited player losing control of the ball, and accidents do not give rise to a right to self defense.

By hitting the other player after the incident was over, when it may not be provably an attack anyway, your son--and therefore you, since he is a minor--most likely incurred liability.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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