FENTON, MI — The Michigan Supreme Court won’t take up the case of a former Fenton High School tennis player who suffered a permanent eye injury after a teammate hit a tennis ball that struck him in the eye as a practice was ending.
Originally filed and dismissed in Genesee Circuit Court and upheld by the state Court of Appeals, the lawsuit was filed by Bradley Trecha and his father, Jeff Trecha, against Brenden Remillard, an older teammate on the Fenton tennis squad, when both were students at Fenton in September 2016.
Trecha was injured at Fenton High School on tennis courts where practice took place, according to court records. The team practiced on two banks of courts that were separated by a fence that was 15 feet behind the baselines of the courts and Trecha was between the baseline and the fence at the close of practice.
Treacha and others had been instructed by their coach to pick up tennis balls around the court, according to a brief filed by his attorney, Edwin W. Jakeway. At the same time, Remillard was ending a practice match.
After losing the match, the brief says, Remillard “turned, and out of frustration” took a ball out of his pocket and hit it behind him, striking Trecha in the eye while he was gathering balls around the court.
The Supreme Court had agreed to hear oral arguments focused on whether the incident that caused Trecha’s injury was reasonably foreseeable for someone involved in a recreational activity but justices said in their decision that they were not persuaded that the question presented should be reviewed by the court.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Megan K. Cavanagh wrote that the lower courts “erred by relying on a factual conclusion unsupported by the record and by concluding that defendant’s blowup was reasonably foreseeable.”
I “do not believe that people in Michigan foresee being subjected to the risk of a player angrily and blindly striking a ball while playing tennis in their local park,” Cavanagh wrote in her dissent. “I do not think that keeping this case from a jury either ‘encourages vigorous participation in recreational activities’ or provides ‘protection from egregious conduct’ … Consequently, I would reverse and remand to the circuit court.”
Mary T. Nemeth, Remillard’s attorney, said in her argument before the court in April that Treacha was in “a zone of danger,” standing just about 10 feet from her client when he was hit in the eye.
People participating in competition “get frustrated and do stupid things,” Nemeth told the Supreme Court, adding in her brief to the court that her client did not know that Treacha was standing behind him when he hit the ball towards the fence.
But Jakeway said the injury his client suffered didn’t have to happen and isn’t an ordinary part of tennis.
“His injuries did not result from a risk inherent in tennis …,” he said. “You just would not hit a ball behind you without looking after a game has ended.”