With numerous home teams to root for – including the Jets, the Mets, the Giants, the Rangers, the Yankees, the Islanders, the Knicks, the Nets, the Red Bulls, the Cosmos and the NYCFC – there is no doubt that sporting events are a significant part of New York culture. Over the years, sporting event stadiums and parking lots have set the stage for serious fan-on-fan injuries, including assault and battery.
The National Football League (NFL) has been notorious for fan arrests and violence. Last year, The Washington Post reported that the number of arrests at NFL games across the nation have trended slightly upward since 2011. New York NFL teams are among those with the highest reported average number of fan arrests, The Washington Post reported. The New York Giants fans had the second-highest average number of arrests at NFL games from 2011 to 2015 with 22.5, just under the Chargers, who had a reported average of 24.6 fan arrests. The New York Jets had the third-highest average number of fan arrests with 21.5.
There are several factors that contribute to fan violence at sporting events. One of the factors that precipitate or fuel crowd violence is alcohol consumption, which lowers inhibitions and impairs thinking. Sports fans may also resort to violence to express loyalty to a team, anger at its performance, or scare opponents. Some may view riots or altercations as “tradition,” when rival teams come face-to-face during regular-season or championship games. Unruly fans may also resort to throwing things such as bottles and smoke bombs, which can end up causing serious damage or injuries.
The most common fan-on-fan injuries are assault and battery. Assault is the intentional act that causes an individual to fear that he or she will face immediate physical harm. It recognizes the fact that placing an individual in a state a fear of imminent bodily harm is punishable, even if the victim does not face harm physically. Battery is the intentional physical act that results in harmful or offensive contact. Aggravated assault and battery are more serious offenses in which an individual tries to or does serious injury to another person or causes harm through use of a deadly weapon.
In order to prove an assault and battery case in a court of law, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant has intent to perform the act that causes harm. For example, Jerry is at a baseball game when a fan of the rival team turns to him and says, “I am going to punch you in the face.” This act would be considered assault because Jerry is now in fear of being physically harmed. If the fan of the rival team follows through with his threat and punches Jerry in the face, that physical act would be considered battery. If the fan of the rival team punches Jerry with brass knuckles, it would be considered aggravated assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
Assault and battery are both offenses in criminal and tort law and, therefore, can be tried as a criminal or civil case. If an assault and battery victim files a civil claim, he or she may be entitled to nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages. Nominal damages are a small sum awarded to the plaintiff when assault is proven, but the victim did not suffer physical harm or there is no evidence to support that harm occurred. Compensatory damages provide monetary compensation to the plaintiff for the harm and expenses that he or she incurred as a result of the assault and/or battery. Compensatory damages may include special damages for current and future medical care and treatment, and general damages for emotional pain and suffering and other mental distress. Punitive damages, or exemplary damages, are only available in cases in which a defendant intentionally and maliciously causes harm. Punitive damages are awarded to deter similar conduct by making an example of the defendant and punish him or her for his or her crimes. Nominal or compensatory damages must be awarded before punitive damages can be sought. A jury will consider the nature of the defendant's act, his or her intention to cause harm, the extent of harm that was caused by his or her actions, and the amount that would punish the defendant relative to his or her wealth.
If you or a loved one has suffered an assault or battery injury at a sporting event, it is crucial to consult a personal injury attorney who is knowledgeable in this area of law. The New York personal injury attorneys at Georgaklis & Mallas PLLC are experienced in all areas of personal injury matters, including assault and battery cases. Our attorneys fight zealously on behalf of their clients to protect their legal rights and recover the compensation they deserve. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact our New York assault and battery law firm at (718) 238-2116.