Playful Punch Results In Serious Harm

Many of us have given friends playful punches, taps and shoves while horsing around. Usually nobody gets hurt. But what if the recipient is unusually fragile and what seems like harmless fun results in severe injury? Under the so-called “eggshell skull” doctrine, you “take your victim as you find him.” In other words, you are responsible for the full extent of any harm, not just the level of the harm you may have foreseen. An interesting twist on this issue came up in a recent case out of Lincoln, Nebraska. There, a sheriff’s deputy playfully hit a Lincoln police officer on the left shoulder as he greeted her, not knowing she’d recently had rotator cuff surgery. The punch caused her serious injury. The officer, who worked for the city, filed for worker’s compensation and was awarded more than $63,000. The city in turn sought to recover from the county, which employed the sheriff’s deputy who caused the harm. Ultimately, the court found that the incident constituted “battery” rather than negligence. As a result, under a quirk in state law, the county was immune from responsibility. But theoretically, if the county wasn’t immune on a technicality it could have been found responsible for the entire $63,000 even though the deputy had no idea the cop was in such a delicate state.

About John Fagan

John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981. John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder. In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home. John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation. Professional Activities John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates. Service to the Community John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
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