Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

High School Facing Title IX Complaint Over Softball Fields

Posted | Filed under Legal, Softball

Softball parents cry foul over field conditions

What should evoke feelings of nostalgia and pride have instead propelled parents at Lexington High School into legal action. The South Carolina school’s aging softball field is in need of improvements, according to Tanya McCraw. Her daughter still plays there where she played while attending the school in the mid 1990s.

The players’ parents claim the girls’ softball and boys’ baseball facilities are unequal and that their complaints are being ignored. They have filed a Title IX complaint, insisting there are serious safety issues that need addressed.

Parents’ list of complaints include:

  • A storm drain in foul territory along left field line is uncovered posing a trip hazard.
  • The home plate backstop isn’t adequately padded to protect players or fans.
  • The outfield is dimly in areas and is riddled by divots from by bands that use the field to practice.
  • The dressing area is so small that players often change their uniforms in their cars.
  • Dugouts are small and have dirt floors that turn to mud during heavy rains.

What’s in dispute

Officials from the school district say minor problems on the field are being addressed but reject claims of any dangerous conditions. The school replaced lights that were burnt out, is removing mold from the concession stand, and already installed plastic piping along the top of the fences.

But an upgrade to the 24-year-old field would need to be added to a plan that’s already in development for renovations and new facilities, according to district officials. And that would require voters agreeing to a raise in property taxes. Even then, the improvements wouldn’t be made until 2018.

A recent $1.5 million upgrade to the boys’ field include a new backstop, bleachers and dugouts. Funds for that project came from money saved on other project. The boys also have an indoor practice facility, which was built with donated money.

Understanding Title IX

School districts and private educational institutions that receive federal funds need to be aware of Title IX and the potential for litigation and should respond accordingly to make sure that illegal disparities between boys and girls facilities don’t exist. Title IX claims and their legal defense may potentially be covered under a Directors & Officers Liability policy depending on how the complaint is worded.

UPDATE:

Fortunately, all’s well that end’s well. While the school district never admitted to violations of Title IX requirements, they did agree to make upgrades. Upcoming renovations include improved lighting, dugouts, backstop, fencing, sound system, practice facilities. Access to weight training for female players, additional fan seating, improved restrooms and a new concession stand are also in the plans. Read about it here.


Source: Tim Flach, “Lexington High’s softball field is unsafe, players’ parents say,” thestate.com. 10 March, 2016.

Penn State settlements in sex abuse lawsuits reach $93M

Settlements average $2.9 million per claim.

Six of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse accusers have settled with Penn State, bringing the total paid out thus far to $93 million. It is possible there are still outstanding claims that will be paid out in the future. A university audit statement shows the school has paid or agreed to pay 32 claims, according to a Nov. 25 WJAC-TV report.

Sandusky, serving a 30 to 60 year prison sentence, is appealing his conviction for 45 counts of sexual abuse that was at the center of a 2012 scandal. There are appeals rulings pending against three former administrators at the university who are seeking to have charges of covering up abuse complaints dropped.The court recently restored Sandusky’s pension from Penn State.

Last month, a case brought by Victim 6 against Penn State and Sandusky’s charity The Second Mile was dismissed after a confidential settlement was reached. In October 2013, the university settled with 26 people for $59.7 million and last April, the university’s board of trustees authorized settlement of additional Sandusky-related suits.

While your sports organization will likely never be embroiled in a lawsuit of this magnitude, sex abuse and molestation are very real risks within youth sports. We offer free risk management material to help prevent sex abuse. Many of our General Liability programs include coverage for sex abuse & molestation. To get a quote, visit www.sadlersports.com and click on “get quote”.


Source: “Penn State’s Sandusky Settlement Total Nearly $94M,” insurancejournal.com. 30 Nov. 2015.

Zipline and Ropes Course Safety

Posted | Filed under Injury, Legal

North and South Carolina lacking regulations

Ziplines, rope courses and other commercial aerial amusements have become extremely popular in recent years. But safety regulations across the country vary widely, and two recent deaths highlighted the lack of regulations in both North and South Carolina.

The death of a 16-year old in South Carolina occurred after a fall from a pendulum swing on Sassafras Mountain. In June, a 12-year-old fell to her death from a zipline at YMCA’s Camp Cheerio in North Carolina.

The pendulum swing on Sassafras Mountain, which is tantamount to a Tarzan rope, doesn’t meet the formal definition of an amusement ride in South Carolina and was not inspected by the Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides, according to the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

North Carolina is currently waiting for the governor’s signature on House Bill 39, which calls for an increase in the penalty for illegal operations of amusement apparatuses and mandates a study by the N.C. Department of Labor on regulation of zipline operations.

There is no pending legislation for aerial amusements in South Carolina.

There are two trade organizations that have each published zipline and challenge course standards: the Association for Challenge Course Technology, which has a membership of over 26,000, and the Professional Ropes Course Association, which has over 2500 international members

Founded in 1993, the ACCT accredits builders and certifies inspectors. The rise in popularity of ziplining began nearly a decade later. The PRCA was the industry’s first developer of ANSI-accredited standards.


Source: Karen Chavez, “Carolinas lack oversight of ziplines, swings.” greenvileonline.com. 15 July, 2015.

Most Youth Sports Organizations Don’t Have 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status

Don’t assume yours does

According to Kids Non Profits USA, 75 percent of all youth sports organizations qualify for Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(3) status, but fail to apply for it as required by federal law. Unfortunately, many sports organizations have been under the mistaken belief for many years that they were tax exempt under federal law.

Below are the most common reasons that many sports organizations mistakenly believe that they are 501(c)(3) tax exempt:

  • On their application for a Federal Employer Identification NumbeTax exempt status for sports organizationsr, they indicate that they were a nonprofit and thought that this was all that was required.
  • They received state nonprofit corporation status, but they neglected to apply for federal 501(c)(3) status as a tax exempt organization.
  • The assumed that they were automatically tax exempt as a volunteer-run organization.
  • They assumed that the prior administrators properly applied for tax-exempt status many years ago.

The benefits of 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status are as follows:

  • Exempts the sports organization from paying federal income taxes
  • Allow a federal tax deduction for donors of cash, property, or equipment.

The risk of not properly applying for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status are as follows:

  • Sports organization is responsible for filing and paying federal and state income taxes as a taxable business.
  • The sports organization is subject to federal and state penalties as well as back taxes.
  • Donors may have taken improper tax deductions on their personal tax returns thinking that the sports organization was tax-exempt.

In addition,  the IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of some 250,000 organizations in 2010 for failure to file an annual information return for the three prior years. Such organizations are required to refile for tax-exempt status.

Directors & Officers liability policies may cover certain lawsuits alleging that managerial negligence led to loss of tax-exempt status and resulting damages. However, such insurance should not be relied upon due to common policy exclusions for knowing violation of the law.

Kids Non Profits USA offers a special 501(c)(3) application package starting at $399 (plus an IRS application fee).

Source: knpusa.org

When Youth Sports Teams Move Up One Year

Is it safe in all age categories?

What liability exposure exists for administrators and coaches who allow a younger sports team to play up in an older age category? That question was asked by a visitor to our website:
“I am struggling with a team playing up a year in age U12 Boys moving to U13 Boys in soccer. What are your thoughts? And do you know of any lawsuits. I am on the board and I want to be able to answer any questions.”
 
We invited a guest expert to respond to that for us. Gil Fried is an attorney and professor at the University of New Haven who provided the following answer:
“I am not familiar with any lawsuits from a younger group moving up one age category.  If they moved up several years the proportional difference in skill and size could open a door to liability.  Since the potential for in jury exists at all soccer levels, I would suggest that the children in the 12-year-old group and their parents be sent a letter indicating the potential concern that since younger kids are playing against older kids there could be a chance for injuries. The letter should be clear and allow parents to pull their child if they are concerned without any retribution.”
 

Frivolous Lawsuits in Sports

It could happen to you

Frivolous lawsuits take place all the time and the world of sports is by no means immune.  We get calls from people who want information on insurance because they are required to have it, not because they want it. Wear hear these comments all the time:

  • “We’ve never had a claim.”
  • “It wouldn’t happen to us, everyone likes our league.”
  • “We make everyone provide their own insurance, so we’re not responsible.”

Wow! Simply WOW!  These days, it’s no longer a question of if you’ll get sued, it’s WHEN you’ll get sued.   And asFrivolous Lawsuit2 often as not, it’s not what you did or didn’t do. It’s what someone perceives that you did or didn’t do that that can land you or your organization at the defendant’s table in a courtroom.   If you are involved in any capacity, whether as a coach, administrator, player, or volunteer, there is no other option than to make sure that your organization has coverage to pay in case you need the defense.

Below are just a few examples of  lawsuits that will make you make you say, “Hmm?”

  • Rodney Carroll, coach of the 16 & under Brunswick (Ohio) Cobras baseball team, was sued for $2000 by the father of his catcher after a 0-15 season in 1999. The grounds? Crummy coaching
  • Jason Abbitt sued the Vallejo (California) Babe Ruth Baseball League for 80 percent of his signup fee in 2002 because he only played in 20 percent of the games.  He sought $65, or $65 for every hit he had that season.

And these two stories were featured in Liable to Laugh 2004 (American Specialty Companies):

The parents of players on opposing teams became involved in a fistfight during a youth soccer game. The loser of the fight (who also was the aggressor) filed suit against his opponent and the soccer league because of his moderately severe injuries.  He alleged that the soccer league was negligent because it failed to control his behavior when they realized, or should have realized, that he was out of control. The soccer league, by the way, was for 5- and 6-year-old girls.

A child was playing in the outfield in a youth baseball league when he missed a fly ball that struck him in the face, causing facial fractures.  The parents sued the league and the coach, claiming that they knew or should have known that the claimant had sight problems and, therefore, should not have been allowed to play in the outfield.

And then there are the crazy claims that never make it to the court room, such as the woman who tried to file a claim because, as she was driving by a youth baseball field,  a baseball flew over the fence and through her back window hitting her bird cage  and releasing her prized pet.

Defibrillator Failure: Fitness Center Liability

The importance of understanding and complying with AED laws

Defibrillator Maintenance of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) and proper use are key to an effective emergency plan. A recent complaint filed in New York illustrates why health club owners must weigh the pros and cons of housing AEDS.*

The lawsuit was brought by a widow of a club member who died of cardiac arrest during a workout. Apparently, employees attempted to use both of the AEDs on the premises, only to discover a dead battery in one and none in the other, resulting in an unsuccessful revival attempt.

A laundry list of defendants and claims

Defendants in the case include the health club owner, Zee Medical, the seller of one AED, Hewlett Packard, Agilent Technologies, Philips Healthcare, and manufacturers and distributors of the second AED. The allegations include:

  • Failure to house functioning AEDs, as legally required in New York
  • Failure to properly maintain and test the AEDs
  • Failure to have in place proper equipment maintenance and testing procedures
  • Failure to properly train staff members in the use, maintenance, and testing of AEDs.

Allegations in the suit state that Zee sold the AED to the health club without a a battery and failed to provide a representative to install a battery and prepare the AED for proper use.  The complaint also alleges causes of action for product liability and breach of warranty.

Risk management is the key

It will be quite a while before this case goes to trial, and who’s to say a working AED would have saved this person’s life? The point is, failure of this type is easy to prevent, and a good AED representative can assist you in reducing risks by providing proper training on AED compliance.


*California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have laws requiring AEDs in health clubs.
Source: Richard Lazar. “Lawsuit Claims Two Non-Working Health Club AEDs Led to Member’s Sudden Cardiac Death,” Readiness Systems. 03 Mar. 2014.

Use of Defibrillators in Fitness Clubs (Infographic)

Looking at the legal issues

The use of automated external defibrillators (AED) in a health club can save lives, but their existence and use also carries some heavy responsibilities.  If your club maintains an AED either voluntarily or per state law requirements, you and your staff have specific mandatory legal responsibilities toward potential victims of on-site cardiac failure. Failure to comply can result in liability.

AEDs

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Mandated Legal Responsibilities

While many businesses are mandated by law to include AEDs in their emergency plan, only California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have laws requiring them in health clubs.

However, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) highly encourage health clubs to maintain an AED and train their staff on  their proper use.

If your facility meets any of the following criteria, both the ACSM and the AHA recommend  AED placement and training:

More than 2,500 members

  • Classes or programs for high-risk populations
  • Access to emergency personnel or facility typically takes longer than 5 minutes

Managing the Risks

Facilities with defibrillators are required to provide staff training and certification in correct use and to keep them properly maintained, which includes regular inspection and testing. Training usually includes completion of a CPR course that meets American Red Cross or AHA standards. Any emergency plan that includes the use of AEDs requires review by a licensed medical doctor.

Negligence lawsuits can result from errors, but noncompliance with any state or federal regulations can also expose your health club to liability.

Good Samaritan laws provide some immunity from liability for emergency health service providers, but reckless or gross negligence isn’t included.

Protecting your fitness center from liability claims

Did you know that liability protection is critical for health clubs and fitness centers? It only takes one injury-related lawsuit to financially ruin your organization. Having the right insurance protection offers you peace of mind.

Finding the right insurance coverage doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing. The SADLER insurance experts  understand your needs and the unique risks associated with your fitness facility.

If you would like to learn more about liability prevention or want to get a customized insurance quote, apply online now or telephone us 800-622-7370. It’s obligation free and most quotes can be sent in a few hours. There’s no application fee and we offer the most competitive rates in the industry, so what do have to lose?

Source: “Risk Management: Is Your Club Compliant or Complacent?” IDEA Health & Fitness Association

Applying Title IX to Municipal Field Usage

Do girls have equal rights to field usage?

A client in Oregon contacted me about a problem the local softball league is having as regards access to fields. I doubt this problem is unique, and perhaps other organizations can benefit  from this information.

The local rec baseball and softball teams share a municipal ballpark, which includes multiple practice fields. Apparently, the girls are not given equitable field time except in the fall, when the boys don’t play.The softball teams have offered to help maintain and build fields to pull their weight, to no avail.

The coach asks if Title IX or another statute applies in this case since the fields are part of a public facility.

According to our research, Title IX does not apply to municipalities unless the public facilities were being used for school-based programs. However, the equal protection clause provides an avenue to request injunctive relief if that becomes necessary. However, that can certainly be avoided if the municipality would simply allot field space based on the percentage of boys teams vs. girls teams. For example, if there are 75 boys teams and 25 girls teams, the girls teams should have access to 25% of the prime practice opportunities.

Understanding how the law works can help girls gain access to fields and can help the municipality stay out of trouble.

If you have a question or concern about your sports organization, don’t hesitate to contact me.

$14.5 Million Bat Settlement

Little League, Manufacturer, and Retail Chain settle lawsuit

The  parents of a New Jersey boy agreed to settle his lawsuit for $14.5 Million against Little League Baseball, Inc., the manufacturer for Louisville Slugger bats, and The Sports Authority. The injury occurred in 2006 during a youth baseball game where the plaintiff was pitching and struck in the chest by a line drive hit by a metal bat. The plaintiff went into cardiac arrest resulting from a blow to the heart within the precise millisecond between heartbeats. This condition, known as commotio cordis, is extremely rare. Paramedics reached the scene within minutes and later revived the plaintiff but brain damage occurred. The plaintiff can’t perform any functions of his daily life according to his attorney.

Commotio cordisThe plaintiff alleged that the metal bat was unsafe because it produced an exit speed in excess of wooden bats. Even though the injury did not occur during a Little League game, it was argued that the bat that was used was approved, and thus deemed safe, by Little League.

My opinion: I know of no test that has shown that commotio cordis is more likely to occur at higher ball speeds as it frequently occurs at ball speeds under 40 mph. This settlement was most likely based on fear that the jury would disregard the law of negligence and make an emotional decision based on the extent of the damages. This settlement represents a significant loss for Little League’s General Liability insurance carrier and may send shockwaves through the sports insurance industry.  While a settlement does not set legal precedent, this news is not good for sporting goods manufactureres and sports sanctioning bodies that approve equipment.  Look for changes to be made in the labeling of stamps and for more disclaimers of liability in product instructions.