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Hackbart v. Cincinnati Bengals, Inc.

Citation. 601 F.2d 516, cert. denied, 444 U.S. 931, 100 S.Ct. 275, 62 L.Ed.2d 188 (1979)
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Brief Fact Summary.

The defendant, a football player, intentionally stuck a blow upon the plaintiff, a player on the opposing team. Plaintiff sued for the tortious conduct.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Although a person consents to participate in an inherently violent activity, they do not necessarily consent to contact that exceeds what is considered custom for that activity.


During a football game, Charles Clark inflicted a blow upon the back of the head of a player on the opposing team, Dale Hackbart. Neither player complained to the officials after the blow had been struck, and instead returned to their respective sidelines. At trial, Clark testified that he was upset that his team was losing the game. Clark also admitted that the blow to Hackbart was not accidental. Hackbart sued Clark’s team, the Cincinnati Bengals, for the tortious act committed during the game.


Whether the intentional striking of a blow by a football player on an opposing player during a game constitutes a tort?


Yes. While Hackbart consented to a game that is inherently violent by nature, he did not consent to defendant’s unlawful blow. The trial court mistakenly concluded that the inherently violent nature of the game precluded the defendant’s liability. The plaintiff was still entitled to an “assessment of his rights and whether they had been violated.” The case is reversed and remanded for a new trial.


The general customs of football prohibit the intentional striking of others. These customs are intended to prevent one player from intentionally inflicting a serious injury upon another player. While a player can be penalized or expelled from a game, he or she can also be found liable of tortious conduct. No privilege exists for contact that occurs outside the bounds of what is considered custom for that activity. Therefore, a party may still be found liable for tortious conduct even in a violent game of football.

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