Archive for the ‘Event Insurance’ Category

Amateur Sports and Coronavirus (COVID-19): How To Return to Play

Updated 8/11/2020 – See blue font areas for recent updates. Returning visitors should always refresh the page to see the latest changes.

Applying Risk Management to Address Coronavirus Risk to Allow Your Organization to Re-Open and Return to Play

The coronavirus threat and the ultimate impact on society and the sports community is still unknown at this time. The situation is fluid with new information being released almost hourly regarding the progression of the COVID-19 outbreak and what steps various sports organizations are taking to address the situation. The trends have swung from mitigation to cancellation and now back to mitigation again with the planned reopening of sports in many states.

From a pure liability perspective for the reasons to be explained, COVID-19 currently poses a much lesser severity risk (risk of large dollar payout) to sports organizations than the traditional severity risks of child abuse / molestation and concussion / brain Injury. However, in other respects, COVID-19 presents unprecedented challenges due to the elements of societal fear, unknown outcome, incorrect and/or changing information, unparalleled role of media, red state / blue state politics, involvement of government regulation in return to play, threat of financial failure due to shut down and loss of registrations, and mitigation techniques that touch almost every aspect of operations and demand utmost management attention. Nevertheless, any significant threat, including COVID-19, can be addressed with the application of the risk management process and risk managers and sports organizations are rising to the occasion.

There is safety in following the lead of authority sources

In order to prove negligence in failure to cancel or mitigate risks, courts will look to authority sources to determine the standard of care that is owed to sports organization staff, participants, and spectators. Therefore, sports organizations should pay close attention to the mandatory governmental regulations and/or recommended guidelines published by the various authority sources:

  • Federal/State/Local government: Constantly monitor governmental health agencies such as U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your state’s public health department and other county/local authorities.
  • CDC Considerations For Youth Sports: The CDC published guidelines for return to play for youth sports on May 19 of 2020 in a document entitled Considerations For Youth Sports. However, the CDC states that these considerations should be supplemented by more specific instructions from state and local governments including the timing of permissible return to play.
  • School Districts: School districts provide localized advice based on the levels of coronavirus risk in a particular community. However, the risk components of school sports may be different than those posed by local, community-based sports organizations.
  • Sports Governing And Sanctioning Bodies: Monitor the websites, emails, and social media from the sports governing and sanctioning bodies that oversee your sport. Examples of sports governing and sanctioning bodies include NFHS, USA Softball, and USSSA.

Potential liability exposure exists for sports organizations

Below are the most common legal theories of recovery for a claimant who has been allegedly exposed to coronavirus with resulting sickness or death:

  1. Negligent failure to cancel event resulting in COVID-19 transmission.
  2. Negligent failure to take mitigation steps if events are not cancelled resulting in COVID-19 transmission.

It’s one thing to allege negligence, but it must be proved by showing:

  1. Duty owed to the claimant (may be different for participants vs spectators)
  2. Breach of duty by not following mandatory regulations and/or guidelines on cancellation or mitigation from sources as CDC, state health departments,  county/local authorities, and sports governing bodies.
  3. Breach of duty was the proximate cause of the sickness. Proving causation may be a tall order according to law professor Benjamin Zipurski of Fordham University. Zipurski states that a claimant would need to prove they did not have a virus before the event, they did not come in contact with anyone or any shared spaces on the way to the event, and they did not come in contact with anyone or any shared spaces after the event. This is further complicated by the long incubation period of COVID-19 which may be up to two weeks.  On the other hand, it may be possible to trace the transmission of  COVID-19 if a cluster of multiple people who attended the same event become infected. But despite media publicity over new smart phone COVID exposure tracking apps, it is unlikely that these initiatives will get off the ground due to low voluntary participation as well as concerns over privacy intrusions.
  4. Damages (medical bills, loss of income, loss of companionship, disability, pain and suffering, etc.)

In order to prevail, the claimant must prove all 4 elements listed above. Failure to prove just one element will result in failure to prove negligence.

COVID liability frequency and severity risk and as compared to child sex abuse and brain injury

So far, the frequency risk (risk of many small lawsuits being filed) of COVID lawsuits is low since there are no known COVID transmission lawsuits that have been filed against sports organizations; however, this may change with the return to play phase. As regards the severity potential (risk of large dollar payout), even though COVID transmission can result in serious injury or death to one or multiple persons, it is believed by most insurance industry experts that the potential for large payouts is low due to the difficulties in proving the proximate causation that is required to prevail in a negligence lawsuit. A common thought among these experts is that COVID liability poses a much lower severity risk than sex abuse / molestation or concussion / brain injury. Also, a COVID claimant is less likely to be angry and seeking revenge since sports organizations, despite their best mitigation efforts, have less control over COVID as compared to preventing child sexual abuse or second impact syndrome and resulting brain injury, for example. In addition, there is a much stronger case for assumption of risk with COVID as compared to child sex abuse and brain injury.

However, based on sports administrator feedback, it appears that some administrators fear the COVID liability risk even more than child sexual abuse or brain injury even if such fears may be unfounded. Perhaps the reason is because media outlets remind the public various times throughout the day about new COVID cases and death counts and how society will never be the same. Just image how fears over child sexual abuse and brain injury would be magnified if the media were to constantly remind parents of the daily counts of child sex abuse and concussion incidents.

Legal Defenses To COVID-19 Lawsuits

In order to prove a claim of negligence, the plaintiff must prevail on all 4 elements listed above. As discussed, the element of proximate cause may be difficult to prove in the case of a COVID-19 transmission allegation.

But there are also the following legal defenses that are available:

  • Waiver/Release With COVID-19 Language – Existing waiver/release agreements for minors and adults should be modified to add language releasing the sports organization from liability resulting from illness such as communicable diseases including COVID-19. Or, a specific COVID-19 waiver/release may be used. In some states, a waiver/release may result in lawsuit dismissal by summary judgment depending on if the participant is an adult or minor. Even if the waiver does not result in a quick dismissal, they often reduce the amount of damages owed. See our blog entitled Are Waivers Worth The Paper They Are Written On?
  • Assumption Of Risk – Spectators and participants assume a known risk when they decide to attend or participate in a sporting event. Who has not been warned of the risks of coronavirus by the media? An assumption of risk defense can be strengthened by a COVID-19 waiver/release signed by all participants/parents as well as COVID-19 warning signage.
  • Contributory or Comparative Negligence – Spectators and participants may share in the negligence to the extent that they did not practice personal discipline in taking precautions against transmission. This may result in a total bar or an offset against damages depending on state law.
  • Federal Volunteer Protection Act – The federal Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 provides certain immunity for volunteers of not for profit associations. There are also state law versions which are preempted by the federal act to the extent that the federal act provides stronger protections. These immunity acts do not apply to the extent of gross negligence or other wanton or willful behavior
  • Federal Or State COVID-19 Immunity – There is talk of an imminent federal COVID-19 immunity act to protect businesses including sports organizations from the liability risk of opening up operations. The Following States have some form of COVID immunity whether by statute or executive order; AL, AR, IA, KS, LA, MS, NC, OK, UT and WY. These statutes and executive orders will provide much needed relief but will exempt willful or reckless disregard for COVID-19 mitigation best practices.

Regardless of the difficulties of a claimant in proving negligence and the existence of these defenses, we live in a litigation happy society and even frivolous litigation can result in legal defense costs.

Does General Liability insurance provide coverage for sports organization that are sued for failure to cancel or mitigate?

Here is the short answer:

No one can say with 100% certainty whether a General Liability policy will pay for part or all of a COVID-19 transmission lawsuit. The insurance carriers did not contemplate that this policy would pay for liability arising from a pandemic. But whether the carrier will be forced to respond and pay for a legal defense is a complicated matter. The answer depends on a number of factors including the exact causes of action alleged in the lawsuit papers, the facts in a particular case, the existence of certain exclusions in the policy, and how the various courts and jurisdictions interpret the policy provisions.

If your policy does not include a specific exclusion for communicable disease, virus, or pandemic, you have a much better chance that your carrier will provide legal defense and coverage according to several sports insurance industry claims managers. Insurance carriers are cautious and often provide legal defense under a reservation of rights letter due to fears over a bad faith refusal to settle lawsuit and the associated multiplied and punitive damages. However, even without the communicable disease exclusion, carriers will likely refuse to defend if a sports organization engages in blatantly negligent behavior such as returning to play before clearance by state and local authorities and failure to implement the most basic mitigation best practices.

In addition, if just one of the causes of action in the lawsuit papers is potentially covered, the insurance carrier will normally be required to provide a legal defense even if any settlement or adverse jury verdict is not completely covered. And a legal defense is likely to be the most important element in a COVID-19 transmission lawsuit since as it will be extremely difficult to prove negligence for the reasons stated above.

Here is the long answer:

In a very brief and over-simplified summary, the General Liability policy responds to certain lawsuits alleging “bodily injury”  or “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” and not otherwise excluded. COVID-19 definitely falls under the definition of “bodily injury” which includes sickness.  But whether a COVID transmission event is an “occurrence” could be subject to debate. Generally, an “occurrence” is similar to an accident and is something that is not intended or expected. Some courts may rule that a transmission during an event in the middle of a pandemic does not fall under the policy definition of an “occurrence” if the outcome would be expected. Other courts may rule that there is an “occurrence” because the transmission was accidental and unintended even if the decision to hold the event was a poor one.

If the court finds that a COVID transmission incident is an “occurrence”, coverage then hinges on whether an exclusion applies. An exclusion is a provision that takes away coverage. To follow are some potential exclusions that could result in a claim denial:

  • Communicable Disease, Pandemic, Or Virus Exclusion – At the present time, most sports General Liability policies do not include such exclusions. However, moving forward, expect most insurance carriers to add one of these exclusions on policy renewals in an attempt to clarify their intent to not cover liability arising from a pandemic.
  • Intentional Injury Exclusion –  The intentional injury exclusion applies to “bodily injury” (includes sickness) that is expected or intended. If the sports organization moves forward with practice or play despite a mandate to the contrary from the state or municipality or without following recommended mitigation techniques, some authorities have suggested that it is possible that the insurance carrier may deny the claim citing the intentional injury exclusion. This is based on if a reasonable person could or should expect the virus to spread because of actions taken or decisions made. However, according to IRMI, such an interpretation may not be appropriate as “in order to rely on this exclusion, the insurer must demonstrate bodily injury or property damage was expected or intended by the insured—whether the act itself was intentional is not the measure of this exclusion.”
  • Pollution Exclusion – Some courts have ruled that a virus is a “pollutant” for the purposes of the pollution exclusion. However, the majority view is that a naturally occurring contaminant such as a virus is not a “pollutant” because it does not fall under the category of environmental pollution.

Homeowners Liability And Personal Umbrella Insurance May Provide Coverage For Individual Volunteers

Homeowners Liability and Personal Umbrella policies usually cover insureds while conducting duties as a volunteer for not for profit sports organizations. If these policies don’t include an applicable communicable disease or similar exclusion, it is possible that they are a source of legal defense and would pay for any settlement or adverse jury verdict. Most personal policies do include some type of communicable disease exclusion, but many are worded to apply only to situations where the insured was personally the source of the transmission of the communicable disease. Of course, that is usually not the case where an insured is a volunteer coach or administrator and is shot gunned into a lawsuit. The carriers may also argue that the transfer of a communicable disease was not an “accident” or was an “intentional injury” but these are not likely the majority view. In any event, any COVID claim naming an individual volunteer staff member or administrator should be turned in to any existing Homeowners Liability or Personal Umbrella carriers.

Different levels of transmission risk factors for different sports organizations

The following factors should be considered when a sports organization makes decisions regarding cancellation or how to best mitigate coronavirus risks. Know the risk factors for your particular sports organization and tailor a plan to fit your specific needs.

  • What is happening in your specific community. If coronavirus is present or widespread in your community, you should increase your level of aggressiveness in applying risk management.
  • Type of competition: the risk of transmission increases from lower to higher as organizations move from virtual conditioning and training at home under instructions from a coach; team-based practice with social distancing and no sharing of equipment; team-based practice without social distancing and sharing of equipment; within-team scrimmaging; competition with teams from within your geographic area; and competition between teams from different geographic regions
  • Analyze separately the risks from the perspective of staff, participants, spectators, and third-party vendors. Mitigation plans may need to be customized for each group.
  • According to the CDC, the risks to older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions are elevated. According to U.S News & World Report, children and teens are at a lower risk and typically have milder symptoms or none at all and the death rate is much lower than middle aged and older populations. Exposure transmission to seniors may occur in their role as sports participants, coaches, spectators, or parent/guardians. Mitigation plans should be adopted to protect those with the highest level of risk.
  • Playing locally vs travel: Local play entails less transmission risk than air, bus, or train travel. Staff and participant travel to out-of-town conferences or competitions is a higher risk activity.
  • Spectators: Higher spectator transmission rates can be expected when spectators are indoors, confined in a small enclosed space, seniors, or have compromised immune systems.
  • Crowd size: The larger the crowd size, the greater the transmission risk. Sports organizations may adopt guidelines to reduce risk by limiting attendance to one person per participant; maintaining separate entry and exit points; not allowing congregating at common areas such as concessions, bathrooms, and information boards; and enforcing social distancing guidelines of 6 feet between non family members.
  • Sport specific player contact: Some sports have more spacing and less close contact between players such as baseball, softball, cross country, track & field, tennis and golf. Other sports such as basketball, soccer, football, and lacrosse have much closer spacing and player contact. Sports with higher levels of close contact should limit such exposure during practices to a certain number of minutes and should concentrate on conditioning and drills that don’t require close contact.
  • Sport specific shared equipment: Different sports have different levels of touching shared equipment followed by the touching of participant mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Player ages: Younger age groups have more difficulty in following instructions about social distancing; touching mouth, nose, or eyes; sharing water bottles; etc.
  • Size of team: Teams with higher numbers of participants have increased transmission risks. Consider decreasing team size or breaking up teams into pods that have limited close contact with other pods within the same team.

Sample risk management guidelines to mitigate COVID risks

(Note: references to staff means coaches, team specific staff, and general league staff members which may include directors/officers, umpires/referees, gate workers, scorekeepers, concessions, field maintenance, janitorial, etc.)

Manage

  • COVID Coordinator: Appoint a COVID coordinator to oversee all aspects of the COVID risk management plan including development from appropriate resources, implementation, monitoring, updates/changes, communications, staff training, regulatory compliance, and answering player, parent, and staff questions about COVID concerns.
  • Compliance With State And Local Guidelines: Make sure that the sports organization is in compliance with all state and local COVID guidelines including return to play dates and maximum group sizes.
  • Training: Train all players and staff on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette.
  • COVID Self-Reporting: Be familiar with and comply with all regulatory requirements, privacy policies, and information sharing regulations as regards COVID-19 self reporting of symptoms or positive tests by players or staff as well as by related family members with whom they have had close contact.
  • Spread Out Scheduling Of Practice And Games: There should be enough time between practices and games to allow one group to vacate the premises before the next group enters as well as for proper sanitation of surfaces and other equipment.
  • Back Up Staff: Have a back up staffing plan in the event that staff members become infected.
  • High Risk Staff: Limit staff with underlying conditions from attending or working the sporting event. (Source: TX Checklist For Youth Sports Operators.)
  • Documentation: In the event of COVID transmission litigation, the sports organization must be able to provide written documentation of the implementation of the COVID risk management program.

Communications

  • Pre-Season: Sports programs should disseminate information to all staff, players, parents, and spectators about the COVID risk and practices that should be undertaken to mitigate risks. Information should be disseminated by way of email, social media, coach talks, and public announcements.
  • Self-Reporting Of COVID Symptoms: Be prepared to disseminate information to concerned parties about any COVID-19 incident while complying with all regulatory requirements and privacy laws.
  •  Staff Meetings: Consider cancelling in-person staff meetings and replace with Zoom meetings or conferencing by telephone.
  • Risks To Seniors: Provide notice to all parents or guardians of the enhanced risks of players being in direct contact or anyone 65 or older for 14 days after participating in a sport event or practice. (Source: TX Checklist For Youth Sports Operators.)

Pre-Event

  • Stay Home When Appropriate: Players, staff, and spectators should be instructed in communications to stay home when they are showing symptoms of COVID-19, have a temperature over 100.4 Fahrenheit, have tested positive for COVID-19, or have had close contact with a person with COVID-19.
  • Symptom Checking: Conduct pre-event observation and/or questioning of all players and staff about the existence of any COVID symptoms including cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or known close contact with person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19. (Source: TX Checklist For Youth Sports Operators.)
  • Temperature Check: Players, staff, and spectators should be asked to take their own temperature before leaving the house and they should stay at home with any reading of 100.4 Fahrenheit or higher according to CDC definitions of reportable illnesses for contagious disease. The sports organization can assign a staff member to use an infrared non-contact forehead thermometer to take the temperature of all players and staff before they enter the field/facility. Any reading of 100.4 or higher should result in a denial of entry. These thermometers are now commonly available for under $100. (Note: The CDC Considerations for Youth Sports guidelines no longer suggest taking temperature checks at home or on location but this still may be a requirement of state or local governments.)
  • No Congregation: Players and team staff should not congregate prior to a practice or competition event and should stay in cars until right before warm ups for the practice or competition and should avoid other groups that are leaving the prior event.
  • Team Check In Process:  Team staff and players should continue social distancing during the team check in process for competitions. There should be a single point of contact for teams during events.
  • Disinfect Hard Surfaces: When arriving at team seating or sideline areas, team staff should disinfect all hard surfaces such as benches, railings, and equipment racks.

Post-Event

  • Cleaning: Team staff should clean and dispose of all trash from player seating or sideline areas when departing practice or games.
  • No Congregation: Players and team staff should quickly exit the practice or playing location after the event and go directly to their cars without congregating with other teams or spectators in common areas.

Social Distancing

  • 6 Ft. Rule: All players, staff, and spectators should practice social distancing of 6 ft. whenever possible, especially in common areas.
  • Pre And Post Event Social Distancing: Social distancing should be practiced by players and staff during all locker room activities, instruction, explanation of rules, pre-game strategy, and post game briefing sessions.
  • Restructure Practices: Restructure practices to greatest extent possible to concentrate of conditioning, drills, skill building and limit close contact to a specified number of minutes during simulation drills and scrimmages.
  • Breaking Up Large Teams: Consider breaking up large teams into pods during practice that have limited close contact with other pods on the same team.
  • Pre-Game Warm Ups: During pre-game, players and staff should maintain the 6 ft. distance if possible during warm ups and drills and should only have close contact during actual competition.
  • Social Distancing Monitors: Identify adult staff members to help maintain social distancing between players, staff, and spectators (if allowed by state law).
  •  No Handshakes/Celebrations: Players and staff should refrain from handshakes, high fives, fist/elbow bumps, chest bumps, group celebrations, etc.
  • Waiting In Cars: Players and team staff should wait in their cars with parents/guardians until just before the beginning of a practice, warm-up or game instead of assembling in groups.
  • Car Pools: Discourage the use of car pools to transport participants who do not live in the same household.
  • Spectator Social Distancing: Spectators should follow social distancing of 6 ft. whenever possible and should avoid being in groups of greater than 10 persons. Where social distancing is not feasible, spectators should wear face coverings and wash hands or use hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) frequently.
  •  Limiting Spectator Attendance: Some sports organizations may choose to limit spectator risk by limiting attendance to essential staff and limited family members.
  • Off Site Activities: Avoid off site team activity events such as swimming, team meals, bowling, watching professional teams, etc.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) And Personal Disinfectants

  • Educate: Teach players and staff and reinforce the use of wearing cloth face coverings. Wearing face coverings is most critical when physical distancing is difficult.
  • Face Coverings For Coaches And Staff: All staff should wear PPE such as face coverings and gloves whenever applicable. (Note: CDC Considerations For Youth Sports does not suggest the use of gloves except for when removing garbage bags or disposing of trash.)
  • Player Face Coverings: Players should wear face coverings in close contact areas and situations where applicable. Players should be allowed to wear face coverings during competition if they choose to do so as long as they don’t compromise the safety of any and all participants.
  • Parent / Spectator Face Coverings: Parents and spectators should wear face coverings whenever they are at the facility and in close contact with a non family member.
  • Don’t Touch Face: All persons wearing face coverings should be reminded to not touch their face covering and to wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) frequently.
  • Player Provided Hand Sanitizer And Wipes: Parents should provide all players with hand sanitizer for use between play periods as well as antibacterial wipes for disinfecting player provided equipment.
  • Staff Provided Hand Sanitizer And Wipes: Staff members should provide their own hand sanitizer for frequent use and antibacterial wipes for disinfecting hard surfaces and shared equipment.

Playing Equipment

  •  Spacing Of Player Equipment: Player equipment should be spaced accordingly to prevent close contact.
  • Player Provided Equipment: Players should be encouraged to bring their own equipment and to not share with others. Player provided equipment should be kept separate and in individual bags or containers.
  • Limit Team Shared Equipment: The use of team shared equipment (e.g. protective gear, balls, bats, etc.) should be limited whenever possible and should be sanitized after each use if possible. Otherwise, limit use of team shared supplies and equipment to one group of players at a time and sanitize between use.
  • Water Bottles: Water and sports drink jugs should no longer be provided by sports facilities or sports organizations. Players and staff should bring their own water bottles to all team activities to help to reduce transmission risk. Individuals should take their own water bottles home each night for cleaning and sanitation. Visiting teams should also bring their own water bottles.

Facilities

  • Foot Traffic Control: Larger facilities should encourage social distancing by designing multiple foot traffic entry and exit points.
  • Water Fountains: Should be closed with tape and signage stating that they are not to be used. Or, if they are to remain in service, should be sanitized at least hourly during use but participants should be encouraged to bring their own water bottles.
  • Concessions: Concessions should be discontinued unless the sports organization is in a position to strictly enforce precautions. Precautions include 6 ft spacing markers in concession lines between customers; staff instructed to not report to duty if they don’t feel well, have symptoms, or have a temperature; staff required to wear gloves and face masks; steps taken to prevent cross contamination; and frequent sanitation of all surfaces.
  • Rest Rooms: Small rest rooms should limit occupancy to one person at a time and larger rest rooms should provide 6 ft distance markings.
  • Cleaning/Disinfecting: Sports facility owners/operators and team staff should use disposable disinfectant wipes on all training areas, locker rooms, equipment, common areas, door handles, railings, water fountains, seating, bathrooms, etc. on a regular basis.
  • Hand Washing And Hand Sanitizer Stations: Facilities should provide hand washing stations that are foot activated and hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) stations.
  • Information Boards: Discontinue the use of physical posting of brackets, rules, etc. and instead post online.

Sports Organization Provided Supplies

  • Hand Sanitizer: If hand washing stations are not readily available at the facility, sports organizations should provide hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) and should schedule mandatory use at breaks.
  • Food: If food is offered, provide in pre-packaged boxes or bags for each player or staff member and don’t share utensils.

Personal Discipline

  • Hygiene/Hand Washing/Touching Face/Laundering: Players and staff should practice proper hygiene, wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol), abstain from touching their face (mouth, eyes, or nose), refrain from spitting, and cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw tissue in the trash.  Carry small bottles of alcohol-based disinfectant when hand washing facilities are not available. Clothes should be laundered after all workouts.
  • Healthy Practices: All players and staff should practice healthy habits including adequate hydration to keep mucous membranes moist, consume a varied, vitamin-rich diet with sufficient vegetables and fruits, and get adequate sleep.

When Someone Gets COVID-19 Or Has Close Contact

  • Educate: Make sure that staff and family members understand that any sick person should not attend any activities and that they should notify the COVID coordinator if they or any other staff member or player becomes sick with COVID-19 symptoms, tests positive, or has had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive.
  • If COVID Symptoms Exhibited During Event: If a player or staff member exhibits symptoms during an event, they should immediately be separated and sent home or to a health care facility depending on the severity of the symptoms. They should not be allowed to return to activity until they have met the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation.
  • Player Or Staff Member Return To Sports Activity: See CDC guidelines on When You Can Be Around Others After You Had Or Likely Had COVID-19. Here is a summary:
    • They think or know they had COVID-19, and had symptoms: Players and staff can be with others after: 3 days with no fever, and symptoms improved, and 10 days since symptoms first appeared. Depending on healthcare provider’s advice and availability of testing, player or staff member might get tested to see if they still have COVID-19. If they are be tested, they can be around others when they have no fever, symptoms have improved, and they receive two negative test results in a row, at least 24 hours apart.
    • They tested positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms: Players and staff can be with others if they continue to have no symptoms after 10 days have passed since test. Depending on healthcare provider’s advice and availability of testing, they may get tested to see if they still have COVID-19. If they have been tested, they can be around others after they receive two negative test results in a row, at least 24 hours apart. If they develop symptoms after testing positive, they must follow guidance above for “They think or know that they had COVID-19, and had symptoms.”
    • They have been around a person with COVID-19: Players and staff who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after exposure based on the time it takes to develop illness. It is possible that someone could be able to spread COVID-19 for up to 14 days even if they do not have symptoms. According to CDC, “…factors to consider when defining close contact include proximity, the duration of exposure (e.g., longer exposure time likely increases exposure risk), whether the individual has symptoms (e.g., coughing likely increases exposure risk) and whether the individual was wearing a facemask (which can efficiently block respiratory secretions from contaminating others and the environment). Data are insufficient to precisely define the duration of time that constitutes a prolonged exposure. Recommendations vary on the length of time of exposure but 15 min of close exposure can be used as an operational definition. In healthcare settings, it is reasonable to define a prolonged exposure as any exposure greater than a few minutes because the contact is someone who is ill. Brief interactions are less likely to result in transmission; however, symptoms and the type of interaction (e.g., did the person cough directly into the face of the individual) remain important.”
  • Player Or Staff Has Close Contact: Anyone with close contact with a person exhibiting symptoms should also be separated and sent home and should follow CDC guidelines for self-monitoring and procedures for community related exposures.
  • Cleaning / Disinfecting Surfaces: Any areas, surfaces, or shared objects used by a sick person should be closed off and not used until after cleaning and disinfecting. If possible, it is recommended to wait at least 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Notification: Notify local health officials, staff, and family members immediately of any lab confirmed case of COVID-19 while complying with local state and privacy and confidentiality laws as well as with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • Multiple Infections: If 3 or more team members test positive for COVID-19, work with state and local health care officials about continued operation of the sports league. (Source: TX Checklist For Youth Sports Operators.)

Risk Warning And Assumption Of Risk

  • Waiver/Release: Waiver/release agreement forms should be updated to address the risk of communicable diseases such as COVID-19 in addition to injury. See our updated waiver/release agreements for minors and adults. In addition, we have a new, stand alone COVID-19 waiver/release for those sports organizations that already collected their normal waiver/release forms for the season.
  • Coronavirus Warning Signage: Post conspicuous signage at sports facility in highly visible locations (ex: entry, exit, and rest rooms) warning of coronavirus risks and what steps can be taken to reduce such risks. Here is some sample language that should be reviewed by local legal counsel:
    • Coronavirus Risk Warning
      •  It is suggested that seniors or others with compromised immune systems not participate in or attend this event due to risk of infection.
      • Do not enter if you are exhibiting any signs of illness such as sneezing, coughing, sniffles, have fever, or don’t feel well.
      • Do not enter if you have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and have not been cleared or if you have had close contact with someone who has.
      • If you are repeatedly sneezing or coughing, you may be asked to immediately leave the premises.
      • All players, staff, and spectators should practice responsible social distancing by remaining at least 6 ft apart whenever possible.
      • All players, staff, and spectators should wear face coverings whenever applicable.
      • Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer upon entrance, during the event, before and after you eat, and as you leave. Hand washing and hand santizer stations are provided.
      • Avoid touching your face including your eyes, nose, and mouth.
      • Small public restrooms should limit occupancy to one person at a time.
For more details on the sample mitigation guidelines above, see CDC Considerations For Youth Sports.

Sadler COVID-19 Risk Management Templates 

Other insurance policies that may apply to coronavirus

Event Cancellation Insurance is a stand-alone policy that pays for certain financial loss if an event is cancelled, postponed, curtailed or relocated beyond the control of the policyholder. Covered perils may include, but are not limited to, hurricanes, earthquakes, severe/adverse weather, outbreak of communicable disease, terrorism, labor strikes, non-appearance of key people, and unavailability of the venue due to fires, floods or power outages

Though outbreaks of communicable disease are commonly covered under Event Cancellation policy forms, the two leading carriers have recently started to exclude (not cover) coronavirus on newly issued policies. One carrier is issuing a specific coronavirus exclusion, whereas the other considers it to be an excluded pre-existing condition. However, Event Cancellation policies issued prior to the addition of the recent coronavirus restrictions may not have a coronavirus exclusion.

Also note that even if a coronavirus exclusion does not exist, a claim would only be covered if it is not possible for the event to move forward due to travel restrictions, state or local ordinance restrictions, or the suspension of facility operations. These factors are beyond the control of the insured. It is not enough that the attendees or event organizers have a fear of traveling or of catching the virus and voluntarily make the decision to cancel or alter the event.

Directors & Officers Liability covers the business entity and its directors and officers against certain lawsuits alleging managerial negligence that results in economic damages or the violation of rights of others under state, federal, or constitutional law. It is possible that a decision involving the failure to anticipate the financial impact of coronavirus and to take appropriate action could result in economic damages to the business and a subsequent lawsuit by shareholders or other stakeholders against the negligent directors and officers. However, D&O carriers may attempt to deny such a claim because of the “bodily injury” exclusion that is found in D&O policies. Many claims adjusters will take the position that economic damages arising out of bodily injury (i.e. coronavirus sickness) are excluded. However, this position is already being challenged in the courts in other contexts and the ultimate results are unclear.

Worker’s Compensation / Employer’s Liability Insurance covers certain on-the-job injuries and occupational diseases to employees and uninsured subcontractors, including medical bills, lost wages, and disability awards. It’s possible that an infected employee could file a Workman’s Compensation claim. However, Worker’s Compensation Commissions in some states may take the position that a covered occupational disease must be one that is specific to employment and not an ordinary disease to which the general public is exposed outside of employment. An exception may be health care workers who are exposed as part of their employment.

Business Interruption.  Sports facility owners and other sports organizations that own buildings or insure contents may carry a Commercial Property policy. Commercial Property policies often include Business Interruption / Extra Expense insurance which provides coverage for loss of business income (lost profit plus continuing operating expenses) while operations are totally or partially shut down as a result of a covered loss to insured property.  Also provided is Extra Expense coverage for the additional and necessary expenses after a loss to the extent that they offset the Business Income loss. In order for Business Income coverage to be triggered, there must be a direct physical loss to the property that is being covered, whether it is building or contents.

Some Property policies may include a coverage called Contingent Business Interruption which can trigger coverage in the event that there is a covered loss to the premises of suppliers, customers, or key partners. This coverage does not require any such loss at the insured’s own premises.

It is doubtful that contamination of building and contents would be considered a direct physical loss that would trigger business interruption coverage. Also, many property policies include a virus or bacteria exclusion which would further restrict coverage.

In addition, the Property policy may include coverage for acts of civil authorities that restrict access to an area. If such coverage exists, this may trigger a covered Business Interruption claim.

Coverage for any of the above-referenced Business Interruption coverages is not certain. Each case will depend on its own unique facts. Furthermore, the outcome will be dependent on the policy form and the existence of certain bacteria or virus exclusions that may apply. However, these claims may at least be worth discussing.

Conclusion

This coronavirus resource page will be updated frequently as new information comes to light. The purpose is to provide a framework to think through the risks to help each sports organization make an informed decision regarding cancellation and/or mitigation of risk. In addition, any potential coronavirus claims should be turned into the insurance carrier so that the claims department can make the coverage determination.

 

DISCLAIMER

THE VIEWS, OPINIONS, AND ANALYSIS EXPRESSED IN THIS BLOG ARE GENERALIZED DISCUSSIONS OF LIABILITY, INSURANCE, AND RISK MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES BASED ON CURRENT KNOWLEDGE OF THE RAPIDLY CHANGING COVID-19 PANDEMIC AS IT IMPACTS THE SPORTS AND RECREATION INDUSTRIES. AS CONDITIONS CHANGE AND NEW INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE, VIEWS, OPINIONS, AND ANALYSIS MAY CHANGE AND BEST EFFORTS WILL BE MADE TO UPDATE THE CONTENT IN THIS BLOG FOR CLARIFICATION. THE VIEWS, OPINIONS, AND ANALYSIS EXPRESSED MAY BE INCOMPLETE, INACCURATE, AND MAY OMIT CRITICAL INFORMATION. FURTHERMORE, NO SPECIFIC LIABILITY ANALYSIS, INSURANCE COVERAGE, OR RISK MANAGEMENT ADVICE IS PROVIDED FOR ANY PARTICULAR SPORTS ORGANIZATION. SPORTS ORGANIZATIONS SHOULD CONSULT WITH THEIR OWN INSURANCE AGENT FOR GUIDANCE BASED ON THEIR INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES AND INSURANCE POLICIES. NO LEGAL ADVICE WHATSOEVER IS PROVIDED AND SPORTS ORGANIZATIONS SHOULD CONSULT WITH LOCAL LEGAL COUNSEL AS REGARDS THEIR POTENTIAL LIABILITIES ARISING FROM OPERATING DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND BEST PRACTICES FOR RETURN TO PLAY AND RISK MANAGEMENT MITIGATION STRATEGIES TO REDUCE LEGAL RISK. SADLER & COMPANY, INC. DBA SADLER SPORTS & RECREATION INSURANCE DISCLAIMS ANY AND ALL LIABILITY RESULTING FROM THE DISSEMINATION OF THIS CONTENT.


Coronavirus Resources

CDC Coronavirus Disease Situation Summary

CDC Coronavirus FAQs

CDC Coronavirus Travel Information

CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers

World Health Organization Coronavirus Disease Outbreak

4 Key Coronavirus Insurance Coverage Battlegrounds

US Olympic Paralympic Coronavirus Information for Team USA Athletes and Staff

Breaking Down Business Interruption: How Insurance Can and Cannot Mitigate Coronavirus Losses

Coronavirus in the Workplace – Compliance Considerations for Employers

Does Business Income Insurance Cover Coronavirus Shutdowns?

P/C Insurers Put a Price Tag on Uncovered Coronavirus Business Interruption Losses

Few COVID-19 Liability Lawsuits Filed So Far

How COVID-19 Court Lockdowns May Reduce Settlement Amounts

Coronavirus and the CGL

Will General Liability Insurance Respond to COVID-19 Claims

Businesses Fear Lawsuits from Sick Employees, Patrons After Reopening

How will youth sports return to play? USOPC offers first glimpse

Return to Play COVID-19 Risk Assessment Tool: From Aspen Institute

AL Gov. Kay Ivey extends public health emergency, issues COVID-19 lawsuit protections

USA Softball Back To The Ballpark Recommendations

CDC Guidance in Parks and Recreation Facilities Including Organized Sports

Open TX Checklist For Youth Sports Operators

NCYS Return To Play Considerations

NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee Recommendations On Opening Up High School Athletics

United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Return To Play Guidelines

Little League Season Resumption Guide

Managing Risks to Participants and Spectators at Special Events

Precautions that help keep sports and recreation events fun for everyone

Community calendars are full of local organizations sponsoring tournaments, festivals, outdoor fundraisers, races, craft fairs and more. You’ll likely attend at least one yourself in any given season.

Event organizers are responsible for the safety and security of attendees, participants and vendors. That even includes, in some cases, their property. Weather is one risk that can’t be controlled, but other potential risks can be mitigated.

A lot can wrong and event organizers need to develop a risk management plan long before the event takes place. First-time planners should realize this is as important as planning the venue, advertising, catering, entertainment and other aspects of an event. Of course, everyday incident types can occur, like a collapsed tent or injured runner. But terrorist attacks and active shooters at public venues in recent years have drastically changed security protocols for public events.

Tips for mitigating the risks

Every event takes preparation and each step offers opportunities to consider what could go wrong and how to prevent it. We offer these general steps for lowering the risk of injuries.

  • Law Enforcement and Fire Department: Police presence at the event, in parking lots and directing traffic improves security drastically. Consider requesting bomb-sniffing K-9 units. The fire department should be notified well in advance of the event.
  • Registrant/Vendor Check-in: Participants should provide a photo I.D. at registration to receive their packets/T-shirts/bibs. Vendors should also provide proof they are contracted to be at the event.
  • Baggage Check: Consider making a policy that guests can only bring in clear plastic bags.  Otherwise, set a limit on the size and number of bags, totes, or backpacks attendees may carry in.
  • First Aid and Safety Station: Post clearly visible signs designating the location of the first-aid and customer relations station. Arrange for an ambulance and EMTs be present for the duration of the event. There should be a physician, athletic trainer and/or registered nurse in attendance at any sporting event.
  • Volunteer Staff: Station volunteers (wearing event T-shirts, hats or armbands) throughout the venue, including parking areas, to monitor the crowds, assist attendees, answer questions, and direct the flow of automobile and pedestrian traffic

Every event is different, and the security measure you put in place depend on  its size, venue, attendance and other factors. And while some will stretch your budget, you’re not saving anything by taking unnecessary risks.

For further information, we have several articles related to reducing the risk of liability and injuries at special events. We can also provide a quick quote for tournament insurance and non-sporting events.


Source: William Dyson. “Safe and Secure: How to Protect Your Event, Your Athletes and Your Spectators.” sportsdestination.com 07 Sep, 2018.

Managing Risks to Participants and Spectators at Special Events

Precautions can save lives and lawsuits

Community calendars are full of local organizations sponsoring tournaments, festivals, outdoor fundraisers, races, craft fairs and more. You’ll likely attend at least one yourself in any given season.

Those putting on such events are responsible for the safety and security of attendees, participants and vendors. That even includes, in some cases, their property. Weather is one risk that can’t be controlled, but Special event risk managementother potential risks can be mitigated.

Event organizers need to develop a risk management plan long before the event takes place. First-time planners should realize this is as important as planning the venue, advertising, catering, entertainment and other aspects of an event. There are everyday incident types that can occur, like a collapsed tent or injured runner. But terrorist attacks and active shooters at public venues in recent years drastically changed security protocols for public events.

A lot can go wrong

Every event requires preparation, of course. And each step offers opportunities to consider what could go wrong and how to prevent it. Below are some general steps that can be taken to lower the risk of injuries.

  • Law Enforcement and Fire Department: Police presence at the event, in parking lots and directing traffic improves security drastically. Consider requesting bomb-sniffing K-9 units. Notify the fire department well in advance of the event.
  • Registrant/Vendor Check-in: Require participants to provide a photo I.D. at registration to receive their packets/T-shirts/bibs. Vendors should also provide proof they are contracted to be at the event.
  • Baggage Check: Consider making a policy that guests can only bring in clear plastic bags. Otherwise, set a limit on the size and number of bags, totes, or backpacks attendees may carry in.
  • First Aid and Safety Station: Post clearly visible signs designating the location of the first-aid and customer relations stations. Arrange for an ambulance and EMTs to be present for the duration of the event. We recommend that a physician, athletic trainer and/or registered nurse be in attendance at any sporting event.
  • Volunteer Staff: Station your volunteers (wearing event T-shirts, hats or armbands) throughout the venue. This includes parking areas, to monitor the crowds, assist attendees, answer questions, and direct the flow of automobile and pedestrian traffic

Special Events Game Changers

We all know about game changers. Sometimes it’s a certain player, a momentum swing, the venue or fans. Other times it’s an event that makes us stop and rethink our views on one particular topic or another. The bombings at 2013 Boston Marathon qualify as a game changer.

It’s often a catastrophe that makes us re-evaluate our priorities. The Boston Bombings forced us to address our personal safety and the safety of participants at sporting events.

Increasing event security

In attempts to strengthen event security at its football games, the NFL banned spectators from bringing in purses, coolers, backpacks and other miscellany. Some view this as overkill. Others view it as the natural evolution in the continual ramp up of security measures in a volatile setting.

The tech revolution

The technology boom is also helping to strengthen event security. While closed-circuit television is still the Event securityindustry’s main method, the use of cellphones proves the most beneficial in enforcing safety regulations at sporting events. And not just among event staff. Many venues advertise a number for spectators to text or call if other patrons become unruly or are acting suspiciously.

And did you know there are apps available for reporting security issues? Fans may now anonymously submit complaints/observations using ISS 24/7 (or other) software. Game changer!

In addition to security hotlines, social media helps monitor patrons at sporting events. People love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Many sports teams and event management companies use these tools to their advantage. They post on their accounts to spread the word of inclement weather, evacuation notices and other pertinent information.

Smartphones are good for more than just checking your Twitter feed. They are also important in documenting fan behavior at games, both good and bad.  In a world where anyone can be famous on the Internet, staying on your best behavior can mean the difference between YouTube fame and infamy.

Special Events May Require Special Coverage

Every event is different, and safety should be priority No. 1. The security measure you put in place depends on its size, venue, attendance and other factors. And while some will stretch your budget, you’re not saving anything by taking unnecessary risks.

There is one element of the planning stage that should never be overlooked. Determining whether your insurance program includes the coverage needed for a safe event for everyone involved. That includes the hosts, participants, volunteers, vendors and guests.

There are risks involved in hosting and managing special events that may require either added short-term or annual coverage. Check with your agent about the following areas that require particular attention as you plan your event.

Vendors

Vendors can include caterers, tent and equipment rentals, concessions, security, and parking attendants. Sports risk managmentResearch your vendors thoroughly because poor service or a mishap on their part can spoil an entire event. Think of the potential consequences of a collapsed tent or food poisoning. It’s critical that each of your vendors provide you with a valid certificate of insurance evidencing General Liability with a limit of at least $1 million each occurrence. Require that they can add your organization as an additional insured on their policy.

Venues

It’s not unheard of for the actual venue of an event to be a factor that causes an accident or injury claim. Stages collapse, fire exits get blocked, and severe weather sometimes triggers the need for fast evacuations. The more knowledge you have about the number of people attending the event, the electrical equipment needed, and potential for severe weather, the better prepared you will be. For indoor events, make sure you know the emergency protocols of the building. This includes knowing where all the fire extinguishers, exits and stairwells are located. For outdoor events, be sure the terrain and any light/sound rigging are properly installed. Monitor the weather in the days leading up to the event as well as during the event – storms can pop up unexpectedly with disastrous results. Weather apps for smartphones alert you to severe weather watches and warnings.

Emergency Planning

Every event should have a unique emergency plan that all staff and volunteers receive and sign confirming they have read it. The emergency plan should include who has the authority to shut the event down or ask a vendor to vacate. Sudden storms, a shooter in the area, or a vendor with a lapsed permit are only a few examples of when someone may need to make an on-the-spot decision.  The emergency plan should also include a protocol for announcing a closing or changes in the event programming. It goes without saying that all event staff and volunteers should be familiar with the event emergency plan, to include medical Security at special eventsemergencies, lost children, crime and severe weather.

Security

Security often tends to get overlooked because it doesn’t generate income. But consider security an investment that reduces your risk of liability, which is just as good or even better than income. These security tips help make for a much safer event for everyone involved.

  • Volunteers are a great resource. But don’t use them for security enforcement purposes, such as dealing with unruly people, enforcing parking or alcohol regulations, or providing first aid. It’s best to have trained medical and law enforcement professionals handling these duties.
  • Using teachers, senior/varsity athletes and other community leaders is also not a good idea when it comes to maintaining order in the crowd. These temporary-authority figures aren’t always respected by others when they’re out of their element.
  • If you pay for professional security, don’t scrimp. Going with the cheapest security service may not be your wisest decision. Are their employees simply hired staff or trained personnel? Ask what types of sports events and what size crowds they can handle. Ask for examples of situations they managed to control and get references.

Sadler offers Special Event insurance and one of our insurance experts would be happy to help you determine what coverage your event needs.

And further information we have several articles related to reducing the risk of liability and injuries at special events. We can also provide a quick quote for tournament insurance and non-sporting events or you can contact us or call at (800) 622-7370.


Sources:
  • William Dyson. “Safe and Secure: How to Protect Your Event, Your Athletes and Your Spectators.” sportsdestination.com 07 Sept., 2018.
  • Kelly Martin,  “Safety and Security: Changing your game for the better,” Sports Destination Management. Sept./Oct. 2013.

Risks of Tents, Canopies and Umbrellas at Events

Collapsing and fly-away shelters can cause bodily injury and property damage

Tents, canopies and umbrellas are popular shelters and sun shades at sidewalk sales, farmers’ markets, craft fairs, cookouts and sporting events. Unfortunately, it’s all too common to see such equipment inadequately secured. The risk of injuries is great, and property damage can also result when these shelter frames buckle and collapse or they go flying in a gusty wind.

In July 2018, umbrellas sent flying by wind gusts impaled people at Maryland and New Jersey beaches. A number of our sports insurance clients experienced similar mishaps with canopies that blew into spectators and resulted in significant injuries.  

As a matter of fact, one of them recently shared what happened at their youth soccer event:

Opening ceremonies were taking place at the local YMCA on a clear and cloudless morning. Suddenly,  a tornado-like wind burst on the scene. An unstaked canopy went rolling in the air, the legs hitting both a small boy and a woman in their heads. The woman required major surgery on her crushed forehead and she sued the YMCA. The YMCA in turn sued our client because he supplied the canopy. The YMCA did not have secondary insurance covering injured players and participants. Following this tragic event, this soccer league took no more chances. It banned canopies and tents at their games and events, and only allowed hand-held umbrellas.

Best risk management practices for canopies, awnings, tents and umbrellas

Make sure that the people erecting and taking down canopies are not distracted. A poorly-secured canopy is as dangerous as an unsecured canopy.  

Canopy weights should be attached to canopies at all times. Weights should be secured in such a way as to not create a separate safety hazard:

  •      Anchoring weights should not cause a tripping hazard
  •      Ensure weights are attached securely and tethering lines clearly visible
  •      Weights should not have sharp edges that could cut people passing by
  •      Anchor the weights should be on the ground; never hang them overhead

Sufficient weight is at least 24 lbs. per leg. One canopy manufacturer recommends a minimum of 40 lbs. on each corner of a 10’x10’ tent; double that on a 10’x20’ tent. Umbrellas should be anchored by a 50 lb. weight.

Even properly-secured canopies can be precarious in inclement weather. Determine if weather dictates that canopies should be taken down during an event. If so, direct bystanders to stay clear in order to prevent injuries.

Proper canopy anchors

  • Fill 2.5 gallon buckets with cement and tie one to each canopy corner  with a rope or bungee. Do  not place the buckets on the feet of the canopy.
  • Purchase vertical sandbag weights specially designed to be strapped to the canopy legs. Make sure weights are a minimum 24 lbs. each.
  • Fill PVC pipes capped on one end with cement. Attach one to each canopy pole securely.

Improper canopy anchors

  • A gallon of water weighs 8 lbs. Therefore jugs of water are not heavy enough to anchor a canopy in a gust of wind.
  • Tents, canopies or umbrellas tethered to tables, coolers or vehicles make for tripping hazards and are not sufficiently weighed down.
  • Sandbags that don’t sit upright and can’t be securely tied to the tent or canopy should not be used.
  • Tent stakes are tripping hazards and typically do not provide enough anchor in strong wind gusts.
  • Cinder blocks are hard, easy to trip over, and are all too often the cause of broken toes and shins.

Umbrellas

Obviously, it’s best not to erect an umbrella or canopy on windy days. However, if you must, choose one of high quality.  An umbrella made of cheap plastic and a flimsy aluminum frame will not hold up in high winds. Always anchor canopies and tents as directed above.  

Beach umbrellas should always be tilted into the wind and anchored securely.  See the video below for information use of umbrella anchors. You can also purchase sand weights that are made especially for anchoring umbrellas.

We offer other important risk management articles to help lower the risk of liability at markets, festivals and out door events. We also encourage you to call us at (800) 622-7370 if you have questions or to receive a quick quote.


Sources:

Sports / Event Insurance for Terrorism, Active Shooter, and Civil Unrest

Las Vegas incident could be tipping point for revamped insurance and risk management

Ever-increasing threats involving terrorism, active shooters, civil unrest and other malicious acts bring to light the need for new, more comprehensive insurance coverage forms. They also prove the need for pre-event and post-event risk management.

As a result of the Las Vegas incident, gone are the days when sports / event administrators can just hope for the best. Sports and recreation events with large numbers of participants / spectators in public settings are ripe targets for malicious actors. As a result, these organizations must start to purchase appropriate insurance and follow risk management best practices when addressing these threats.

The rise in incidents

Active shooter is the most recent peril to gain widespread media attention. This is due to its increasing frequency, ease of planning / execution, and difficulty in prevention. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) definition of an active shooter is “…an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in Terrorism insurancemost cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.”

According to the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, active shooter events increased from 5.2 per year from 2000 to 2008 to 15.8 events per year from 2009-2012. The figure rose to an average of 20 incidents per year in 2014 and 2015, according to the FBI. Most of these events occurred on business, school, and government properties. However, the Las Vegas incident introduced sports and recreation venues as high-profile target areas.

Mass violence and civil unrest perils represent the potential for many types of losses to sports and recreation organizations

  • Liability for failure to have a risk management plan, failure to respond, inadequate on-site security, inadequate on-site medical personnel, fencing too high to escape, etc. resulting in bodily injury to participants, spectators, employees, independent contractors, vendors, and other members of the public. The potential for damages are astronomical due to the large number of people at risk.
  • Property damage to premises and clean-up expenses. Property damage may result from bullet holes, bomb blasts, fire, vandalism, and contamination. Clean up may include removal of bodies, blood, debris, and contaminants.
  • Public relations expenses and post-event counseling expenses due to emotional and psychological duress.
  • Loss of income from the event and future events, both at the same location and all locations.
  • Loss of reputation resulting in lost future revenues.

Meet the mass violence and disruption perils

Standard terrorism: Traditional terrorist attacks are large scale and highly coordinated. They typically target global corporations, buildings, transportation systems, and other infrastructure with bomb blasts. A new type of ISIS-inspired terrorism emerged in recent years with smaller, lone-wolf type attacks. These include the use of trucks to run through crowds and small arms and knife attacks. Terrorists attempt to intimidate, coerce, or harm a civilian population or government.

Chemical, biological, radioactive terrorism: Terrorists can cause catastrophic loss of life, property damage, and financial loss from chemical, biological, and dirty bomb terrorism. Even the mere threat of these types of terrorism incidents can cause massive losses due to closures, evacuations, and postponements while the threat is being investigated.

Cyber terrorism: Terrorists may employ cyber attacks on a government’s infrastructure, industrial controls, banking system, hospitals, etc., resulting in property damage and business interruption.

Active shooter: Active shooters are typically single assailants who attack large groups in confined spaces. They have no connection to their victims and are not motivated by terrorist causes.

Civil unrest: A disruption in the social order involving a group of people engaging in protests, riots, and strikes, which may result in violence, property damage, and loss of revenue.

Impairment of access: Acts or mere threats of violence can prevent employees or customers from accessing work sites, resulting in financial loss. Impairment may result from terrorism, civil unrest, strike, or government cordon at either the employer’s location, adjacent locations, or within a certain mile radius.

What insurance coverages are required to protect against mass violence and disruptions?

The types of common insurance policies that can come into play after a mass violence or disruption incident are Workers’ Compensation, General Liability, Excess Liability, Property (direct damage and loss of business income), Cyber Risk, Event Cancellation, and Active Shooter insurance.

Workers’ Compensation and Employer’s Liability

Workers’ Compensation responds to job-related injuries to employees or uninsured subcontractors. It covers medical bills, lost wages, and lump-sum awards for disabilities, disfigurements and death benefits. Uninjured employees who witness a malicious act event may qualify for benefits due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Workers’ Compensation is typically the exclusive remedy for an injured worker.  But some scenarios may arise where employers can be sued directly for failure to respond to specific threat warnings prior to an event. There is no terrorism exclusion under a Workers’ Comp policy.

General Liability

The standard General Liability policy form carried by most sports and recreation organizations will likely respond to most claims alleging failure of the organization to prevent or adequately respond to an incident resulting in Property damagebodily injury or property damage. Note that the policy’s each-occurrence and/or aggregate limit may not be adequate to pay the types of extreme damages that may result when multiple individuals are killed or seriously injured.

General Liability policies may contain an exclusion for certified acts of terrorism as defined by the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) unless the buyback has been selected with the additional premium paid. Opting for the buyback, which is relatively inexpensive, is strongly recommended. To be a certified act of terrorism under TRIA, all property & casualty insurance losses must exceed $5 million and an effort made to coerce a civilian population of the U.S. or influence the conduct of the U.S. government.

Excess Liability / Umbrella 

Excess Liability insurance extends the liability limits of the underlying General Liability policy in increments of $1 million, depending on the policy limits purchased. The same coverage considerations that apply to General Liability also apply to Excess Liability. Excess Liability policies may contain the TRIA exclusion for certified acts of terrorism. In addition, some carriers may apply an additional exclusion for non-certified acts of terrorism. This could eliminate coverage for smaller scale terrorist events and active shooter situations. Sports organizations should strongly consider opting for the buyback from certified acts of terrorism under TRIA. They should also consider negotiating with their carrier to remove any exclusion for non-certified acts of terrorism.

Property and Business Interruption

Property insurance policies may pay for Interruption of Businessdirect damage to buildings and contents from a covered malicious act attack. They may also cover indirect damage, which includes loss of business income and extra expense.

Coverage for business interruption is only triggered if there is a direct physical damage loss under the policy. Organizations should also consider a business income buyback for losses stemming from actions by a civil authority to prevent or limit access. This commonly occurs after a malicious act as the location will be considered a crime scene. Business interruption insurance is a complicated coverage. As a result, if a loss occurs, organizations should hire an expert to assist with the filing of a claim to maximize recovery.

Certified acts of terrorism under TRIA can be covered if the buyback is selected and the additional premium paid. However, even with TRIA, the standard war exclusion will not be removed and additional exclusions may exist for nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological (NBCR), depending on the state.

Cyber Risk

Cyber extortionists can shut down computer systems with denial-of-Ransomware attackservice attacks and other cyber-extortion schemes. Terrorists can hack into systems causing direct damage to equipment, software programs, and data. Cyber Risk policies can pay for the following direct damages to the policyholder: extortion or ransom costs; restoration costs of lost data, information, and programming; and business interruption and extra expense resulting from failure of computer systems.

Cyber Risk policies can also pay for liability costs resulting from hacking, breach of confidential data and related credit monitoring costs.  

Event Cancellation Insurance and Enhancements

Due to the limitations of standard property & casualty insurance policies, we advise sports organizations hosting events purchase Event Cancellation insurance with appropriate coverage enhancements.

Traditional Event Cancellation policies may cover loss of business income due to adverse weather; venue unavailability from perils such as fire, collapse, gas leaks, and flood; wildfires, earthquakes; loss or power or communications; communicable disease; non-appearance of key speaker or entertainer; and national mourning.

Additional endorsements may be available to cover loss of business income due to terrorism; sabotage; active shooter, chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear (CBNR) terrorism; war, civil war, and political subversion; strikes, riots, and civil commotion; political intimidating; and national mourning. Some carriers may extend coverage to mere threat of many of these perils.

Active Shooter Insurance

New specialty forms have emerged for stand-alone Active Shooter Insurance. If this coverage can’t be endorsed onto an Event Cancellation Policy for loss of revenues, sports / event administrators should consider an Active Shooter policy. Also, Active Active Shooter InsuranceShooter policies offer a liability limit. The most common coverages and benefits are as follows:

  • Primary Liability with limits ranging from $500,000 to $25,000,000 to cover allegations of negligence from harm caused by attacks using deadly weapons. Even if existing General Liability and Excess Liability policies respond to these allegations, such limits may not be high enough to cover potential damages in an active shooter situation. As a result, a high-limit Active Shooter policy may be a more cost effective way to increase protection.
  • Pre-event services, such as security vulnerability assessment, preparedness seminars, and training modules.
  • Post-event services, including crisis management, advising on emergency communications, emergency call center, and counseling.

Pre-event risk management training for active shooter

Pre-event risk management for active shooter situations is becoming commonplace in educational, business, and governmental settings. Training staff on how to exit, resist, or fight can buy time for law enforcement to arrive.

One respected source of training is the ALICE Training Institute, which focuses its online training module on the following:

Alert: Recognizing danger, first notification to those at risk and law enforcement

Lockdown: Secure in place if unable to evacuate or prepare to evacuate or counter

Inform: Notify law enforcement or others at risk in real time if possible

Counter: Interrupt intruder plans and objectives

Evacuate: Move from danger when safe to do so

ALICE provides client-specific training with a plan geared towards particular locations. In the context of sports and event incidents, the two preferred techniques are usually alert and evacuation.

How to get a quote for Event Cancellation and Active Shooter

For more information on Event Cancellation and Active Shooter insurance and risk management please complete our Contact Us form or call 800-622-7370 and ask for our sports department.

 

Managing Risk in Parking Lots During Sports Events

Aim for an injury-free zone

Sporting events are controlled competition among rivals, and that gets people excited. For as long as people have been running races, throwing balls, and riding horses, crowds have gathered to cheer on the competitors.

When emotions run high, that excitement can continue after the competition is over, and not always with good results.  All too often, the parking lots associated with sporting events can become an arena for fights, assaults and other dangerous behavior. Parking lots are where more than 7 percent of violent attacks at sporting and other large crowd events take place, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Anything can happen

Tailgating and fierce rivalries can lead to confrontations, intentional or not. Whenever alcohol is present, so is the potential for a something to go wrong. For example, a fan suffered a broken leg following a college football game when a drunk patron knocked her down as she walked to her vehicle. She sued the school because no securitSporting event parking lot liabilityy or parking lots attendants were present when the incident took place. Taking the fact that the school sold alcohol at the event and therefore knew the potential for intoxication and the risks involved to attendees, the court ruled in the student’s favor.

The facility’s responsibility

Facility owners/managers should take proactive steps to reduce the potential for bodily injury and property damage in parking lots that can result from tailgating, accidents, fights, assaults, vandalism, etc. Anytime a large crowd includes excited, upset, and possibly intoxicated people, tempers can flare. Add to the mix rain, heat, and/or a long wait to get out of the parking lot, and trouble can easily erupt.

Below are risk management strategies to reduce parking lot risks.

  1.  Document everything. It’s easier to defend your facility if it has written training manuals, documented safety checks, a log of issues/resolutions and video or still images of recorded incidents.
  2. Maintain appropriate lighting, checking bulbs annually.
  3. Remove shrubs and keep large trashcans and other large objects from obstructing a full view of the parking lot.
  4. Have sufficient parking lot staff to visually monitor and conduct periodic walking checks of all areas.
  5. Train parking lot staff to address violations, establish a presence by interacting with fans, and intervene immediately when disturbances take place.
  6. Install high-resolution security cameras.
  7. Meet prior to the event with security officials, law enforcement and facility management to discuss potential issues and debrief following the event.
  8. Ensure that parking lot staff members are all on the same page about who has authority, the chain of command, and proper communication channels and procedures.
  9. Inform fans of safety procedures using signs, the public address system, and fliers.

A facility won’t be liable for unanticipated third-party criminal acts. But if an incident does take place, the facility has a duty to take precautions against future occurrences.  Not doing so can mean significant liability.


Source: Gil Fried. “How Safe are Parking Facilities Near Sporting Events?”rel=nofollowFrom Gym to Jury. Vol. 26. No. 4.

Sadler Featured in Sports Trade Magazine

The January/February 2017 issue of Sports Destination Management’s bimonthly magazine features John Sadler’s article, “Insurance Basics: What You Need to Know.”  SDM is a trade magazine for sports event managers and organizers.

In the article, Sadler explains why it’s important to address insurance needs while planning tournaments and other sporting events. In his over 25 years in the sports insurance industry, Sadler has seen many tournament hosts rely almost entirely on their own sports insurance for protection. Too many of these hosts are unknowledgeable about or neglect the importance of contractual transfer, which is transferring the risk of loss and/or the responsibility to pay for loss to the other party in the contract.

Sadler points out, however, that contractual transfer doesn’t replace tournament hosts’ needs for their own insurance and lists the reasons why.

The article also discusses at length the most common contractual transfer tools, such as liability waivers/releases and indemnification/hold harmless provisions.

Also covered in the article are insurance requirements for teams participating in tournaments and the importance of specifying the areas of responsibility for both the tournament host and the participating team in terms of operational control. Sadler stresses that a well-drafted provision in the tournament host agreement can be helpful to clarify which party has operational control and resulting liability.

Special Events May Require Special Coverage

Safety should be priority No. 1

Many for profit and not for profit organizations hold special events throughout the year. These can be tournaments, banquets, marathons, fundraisers, award ceremonies or simply family days that include fun activities and entertainment. A lot of planning and organization are required to ensure these events are successful. One element of the planning stage that should never be overlooked is determining whether your insurance program includes the coverage needed for a safe event for everyone involved – hosts, participants, volunteers, vendors and guests.

There are risks involved in hosting and managing special events that may require either added short-term or annual coverage. Beyond checking with your agent as to whether your event is adequately protected, below is a list of areas that require particular attention during the planning stages.

Vendors

Vendors can include caterers, tent and equipment rentals, concessions, security, and parking attendants. It’s important to research your vendors well because poor service or a mishap on their part can spoil an entire event – think of the potential consequences of a collapsed tent or food poisoning. It’s critical that each of your vendors provide you with a valid certificate of insurance evidencing General Liability with a limit of at least $1 million each occurrence and that they can add your organization as an additional insured on their policy.

Venues

It’s not unheard of for the actual venue of an event to be a factor that causes an accident or injury claim. Stages can collapse, fire exits get blocked, and severe weather can trigger the need for fast evacuations. The more knowledge you have about the number of people attending the event, the electrical equipment needed, and potential for severe weather, the better prepared you will be. For indoor events, make sure you know the emergency protocols of the building, which includes knowing where all the fire extinguishers, exits and stairwells are located. For outdoor events, be sure the terrain and any light/sound rigging are properly installed. Monitor the weather in the days leading up to the event as well as during the event – storms can pop up unexpectedly with disastrous results. There are weather apps for smartphone that can alert you to severe weather watches and warnings.

Emergency Planning

Every event should have a unique emergency plan which all staff and volunteers receive and sign that they have read it. The emergency plan should include who has the authority to shut the event down or ask a vendor to vacate. Sudden storms, a shooter in the area, or a vendor with a lapsed permit are only a few examples of when someone may need to make an on-the-spot decision.  The emergency plan should also include a protocol for announcing a closing or changes in the event programming. It goes without saying that all event staff and volunteers should be familiar with the event emergency plan, to include medical emergencies, lost children, crime and severe weather.

Security

Security often is something that tends to get “overlooked” because it doesn’t generate income. However, security should be considered an investment that reduces your risk of liability, which is just as good or even better than income. Below are some security tips that can make for a much safer event for everyone involved.

  • Volunteers are a great resource, but don’t use them for security enforcement purposes, such as dealing with unruly people, enforcing parking or alcohol regulations, or providing first aid. It’s best to have trained medical and law enforcement professionals handling these duties.
  • Using teachers, senior/varsity athletes and other community leaders is also not a good idea when it comes to maintaining order in the crowd. These temporary-authority figures aren’t always respected by others when they’re out of their element.
  • If you pay for professional security, don’t scrimp. Going with the cheapest security service may not be your wisest decision. Are their employees simply hired staff or trained personnel? Ask what types of sports events and what size crowds can they handle. Ask for examples of situations they managed to control and get references.

Sadler offers Special Event insurance and one of our insurance experts would be happy to help you determine what coverage your event needs. Call us today at (800) 622-7370 or simply request a quick special event insurance quote online now.

Food Safety in Concessions (Infographic)

Are you cooking up trouble?

Ants, bees, flies, rain, or wind can be annoying when enjoying a hot dog and soda at the ballpark. However, all of those pale in comparison to food poisoning, another outdoor food risk!

Indoor and outdoor sports organizations face liability risks from food poisoning incidents resulting from improper food handling at concession stands. These incidents should be covered by General Liability insurance. However, preventing such risks is preferable. Here are some tips for reducing the risk.

Management and purchases

• Concession stands must adhere to all local food licensing and permit laws and regulations.

• All concession workers should receive training in proper food handling by management.

• Only purchase food from reputable, good-quality sources.

• Do not purchase or serve any food past the expiration date.

• Avoid serving food prepared at home, other than baked goods.

[sc:InfoGraphic imagealt=”Food Safety” imageurl=”https://www.sadlersports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Foodborne-Illness.jpg” imagewidth=”450″ imageheight=”1361″ permalink=”https://www.sadlersports.com/blog/cooking-trouble/” infographictitle=”Food Safety”]

Food Handlers

• All concession workers must wash hands with soap and warm water after potential contamination events. These include but are not limited to using the restroom, sneezing or coughing,  touching counters and garbage cans, dumping garbage, touching cash register and money, and touching your face, mouth or hair

• Use of gloves and hand sanitizers offer hand additional protection, but are not a substitute for frequent hand washings.

• Food handlers be symptom-free of illness (coughing, sneezing or sniffling, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) or open wounds when handling food.

• Food handlers must use appropriate utensils, gloves, or deli paper when handling food.

Insects and Vermin

• Store all food off the floor.

• All food should be covered and spills/drips continually wiped down to discourage insects.

• Keep trash cans covered at all times?? with tight-fitting lids.

 Refrigeration

• Foods requiring refrigeration to be held at 40° F or lower until being served.

• Keep a thermometer in your refrigerator/freezer to ensure fridge is maintained a 40°F and freezer at 0°F.

• Perishable food should not sit out of refrigerator longer than two hours.

Sanitation

• Disposable utensils and paper products should be used to reduce cleaning and contamination.

• Do not wash or reuse disposable products.

• Sanitize and wipe down all food preparation surfaces and concession equipment frequently.

• Do not overfill garbage cans, and empty them frequently.

For more detailed food handling information, you can download our food risk management report.

Protecting your organization from liability claims

Did you know that liability protection is critical for all sports and recreation organizations? It only takes one injury-related lawsuit to financially ruin your organization. Having the right sports and recreations insurance protection offers you peace of mind.

Finding the right insurance coverage doesn’t have to be difficult. We at SADLER understand the specific needs and unique risks associated with your sports or recreation organization.

If you would like to learn more about liability prevention or are ready to get a customized insurance quote, you can apply online now or call us at 800-622-7370.

There are no obligations and most quotes are sent in just a few hours. With no application fees and the most competitive rates in the industry, what have you got to lose?

 Sources:
  • Stadium Foods Present Unique Food Safety Risks: Part 1 And Part II; April 19, 2010; Richard J. Arsenault.
  • Food Safety Hints for Non-Profit Organizations and Schools; Fort Wayne-Allen County Department Of Health; Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
  • A Quick Consumer Guide to Safe Food Handling; University Of Minnesota; Feb. 4, 2009; Parts Adapted from Your Safe Food Handbook, USDA, Feb. 2008.

New Technology Enhances Event Security

Game Changers

We all know about game changers. Sometimes it’s a certain player, a momentum swing, the venue or fans, and other times it’s an event that makes us stop and rethink our views on one particular topic or another. The bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon qualify as a game changer.

It’s often a catastrophe that makes us re-evaluate our priorities. In the case of the Boston Bombings, we have been forced to address our personal safety and the safety of participants at sporting events.

Increasing event security

In attempts to strengthen event security at its football games, the NFL recently banned spectators from bringing in purses, coolers, backpacks and other miscellany. Some view this as overkill, while others view it as the natural evolution in the continual ramp up of security measures in a volatile setting.

The tech revolution

The technology boom is also helping to strengthen event security. While closed-circuit television is still the industry’s main method, it is the use of cellphones that has been most beneficial in enforcing safety regulations at sporting events, and not just among event staff. Many venues advertise a number for spectators to text or call if other patrons become unruly or are acting suspicious. And did you know there are apps available for reporting security issues? Fans may now anonymously submit complaints/observations using ISS 24/7 (or other) software. Game changer!

In addition to security hotlines, social media has helped to police patrons at sporting events. People love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Many sports teams and event management companies have learned to use these tools to their advantage. They post on their accounts to spread the word of inclement weather, evacuation notices and other pertinent information.

Smartphones are good for more than just checking your Twitter feed. They are also important in documenting fan behavior at games, both good and bad.  In a world where anyone can be famous on the Internet, staying on your best behavior can mean the difference between YouTube fame and infamy.

Source: Kelly Martin,  “Safety and Security: Changing your game for the better,” Sports Destination Management. Sept./Oct. 2013.