Archive for the ‘Lawsuits’ Category

Horror Stories About What Can Go Wrong

Serious lawsuits and injuries can happen in your sports organization.

Spectator InjuriesAsk yourself: Are you fully protected?

Our sports insurance clients file a large number of small to medium sized claims. But, we often hear “horror stories” about serious lawsuits and injuries. Besides being an insurance advisor, I am also an attorney and I know how these “horror stories” can turn into fear and worry. Will you be sued? How will you pay the medical bills?

I wanted to share these cases with you so that you will have a better understanding of some of the risks that you may face in the running of a sports organization. Below are descriptions of actual cases from our clients, including insurance carrier payment amounts.

General Liability Lawsuits

    • Youth camper near drowning incident in swimming pool resulting in brain injury. TX $3,387,832
    • Assistant coach was struck in the face by a pitched baseball while warming up the pitcher. FL $1,001,857
    • Youth football player died from heat stroke. GA $1,000,000
    • Alleged defamation against a league vendor. VA $388,417
    • Bleacher collapse with multiple injuries. LA $362,825
    • Child’s arm caught under tire after falling off parade float. NC $345,050
    • Spectator was struck in the jaw by an overthrown ball while standing in the spectator area. Player who threw the ball was warming up outside of the playing field. LA $326,212
    • Coach accused of inappropriate conduct with minor. AL $321,000
    • Player drowned in a lake while on a team picnic outing. SC $319,403
    • Batted ball travelled through netting in L Screen hitting coach. LA $198,823
    • Spectator hit in head by line drive while standing in line. SC $196,614
    • Sponsor signage blocked view resulting in auto fatality. FL $119,867
    • Concession stand worker injured back. CT $174,794
    • Youth football player tackled by opposing player. MD $141,658
    • Player ran out of bounds and stepped in hole fracturing elbow. CA $89,996
    • Parent sued for defamation. CA $84,610
    • Children swinging on gate knock another child down. TX $82,572
    • Child sustained injuries after his arm went through a glass window. FL $77,200
    • Player driven into 1st down marker, fracturing arm. CT $75,000
    • Spectator behind batting cage hit in head by ball. FL $75,000
    • Roughhousing during team outing resulting in fractured elbow. NY $65,855
    • Parent fell in hole while walking between fields. FL $65,000
    • Spectator suffered dislocated elbow after being struck when strong winds blew a tent over. NJ $62,346
    • Spectator fractured both ankles after stepping in a washed out grassy area.  TN $41,781
    • Baseball player was hit in mouth by bat of another player while in on-deck circle. FL $41,908
    • Spectator suffered leg laceration from metal bolt protruding from bleachers. RI $40,000
    • Spectator was hit in the head by a thrown ball during warm-ups resulting in head fracture and blood clot. MS $31,300
    • Coach was struck by baseball by one of the players from another team while coach was leaving the field. LA $13,898
    • Player injured while playing in creek. TN $20,000
    • Spectator fell off the grandstand and suffered head injury. SC $4,487
    • Youth football player was scolded by coach, humiliated, and forced to quit the team. CA $19,626
    • Infant was struck in head by foul ball. FL $5,000
    • Coach was observing tryouts from bleachers and caught foot and fell tearing ACL. NJ $12,906
    • While sliding into third base, claimant suffered laceration to lower leg. OH $15,829
    • Scorekeeper hit in head by foul ball resulting in concussion. MS $6,249
    • Spectator hit in face by baseball bat that flew out of batter’s hand. SC $5,078
    • Person injured when pinned between scoreboard table and golf cart. MS $50,000
    • Driver’s vision obscured by signage, kills passerby when making turn. FL $119,867
    • Children injured in bleacher collapse. LA $81,000
    • Children climbing on statue at awards banquet damage water fountain. IL $4,789
    • Spectator amputates finger while playing on swinging gate. IL $41,739
    • Parent lacerated head after tripping on uneven walkway to field. PA $25,514
    • Football equipment fell on minor. MI $271,464
    • Child fell through bleachers. CA $136,670
    • Spectators tripped and fell walking to restroom. CT $135,000
    • Trip and fall injury to participant. IL 134,956

Directors & Officers Liability Lawsuits

  • Alleged race discrimination for not allowing a team to join a football league resulted in no judgment or settlement being paid but in legal fees. WV $24,715
  • Alleged race discrimination for not allowing a team to join a baseball league resulted in no judgment or settlement being paid but in legal fees. MS $28,912

Volunteer Thefts – Crime Policy

  • President of baseball league took money from league funds and did not repay. FL $3,230
  • Director in charge of special projects took funds from BBQ and candy sales. TX $5,861

Equipment Losses – Equipment Policy

  • Baseball insuranceWater damage to uniforms and equipment. MI $57,547
  • Fire damaged equipment and baseball items. NY $62,380
  • Theft of bleachers, coffee machine, concession stand damaged. MO $11,790
  • Theft of football equipment. CA $28,918
  • Storage trailer broken into and uniforms stolen. PA $37,688

Injuries – Accident Policy

  • Running back fractured femur. CT $58,241
  • Defensive back fractured shoulder during practice. $55,750
  • Player injured in charter bus accident. TN $46,150
  • Running back tackled resulting in knee injury. TN $31,997
  • Cheerleader fell and fractured forearm. FL $25,333
  • Player fractured leg sliding into 3rd base.  $15,866
  • Softball player fractured leg sliding into home base. MS $69,398
  • Player in dugout hit in head by foul ball. FL $81,320
  • Player’s face injured during practice when no helmets were worn. FL $99,263
  • Assistant coach struck in face by pitched baseball while warming up pitcher. FL $104,000
  • Base runner suffered tendon/ligament damage to knee as a result of contact with home plate while sliding. TX $16,953
  • Infielder suffered fractured nose as a result of being struck by a thrown ball. LA $13,266
  • Pitcher suffered a fractured elbow as a result of being hit by a batted ball. NC $10,497
  • Base runner suffered a knee injury as a result of sliding foot first into a fixed base. TX $9,495
  • Youth football player was tackled and femur fractured when player fell on him. OH $18,218
  • Youth basketball player injured knee. TX $17,159
  • Adult soccer player suffered detached retina. CA $19,522
  • Adult soccer player suffered ACL tear. NV $18,872
  • Player breaks arm in fight during football game. OK $63,567

You should be concerned. But, there is a solution.

The insurance programs offered by Sadler & Company provide superior protection at the lowest possible cost. Click on the “Get a Quote” button on the navigation bar at the top of this page for an instant online quote.


Injury to Knee Results in Costly Lawsuit Against Fitness Center

An injury could lead to litigation. Know how to protect yourself and your gym.

Picture this scenario: You open a gym. It’s going great. People are flocking to work out. Your vision for creating a community that fosters health and wellness is coming to fruition. You hire the best personal trainers who take the time to know the clients and prevent injury. Things couldn’t be better. 

Then one day, you’re rudely served with a summons and complaint. What? You are getting sued. By whom, when? Then you remember, a client complained of a strain to her knee doing the last set of lunges. She was older but was still working out well within her capabilities. Your trainer also never left her side during the entire workout. So, what happened? 

The strain resulted in a torn ligament which then required surgery. Your client is now out of work because her job requires being on her feet for long periods, which she can no longer do. She also has mounting medical bills that she is trying to take care of without a job.* 

While this seems like a disaster and very upsetting for both you and the client, you must look at where the liability falls at the end of the day. Who is responsible?

There are a few things you need to ask before throwing in the gym towel and admitting responsibility.

  1. What is the type of injury suffered by the client and its impact (damages) on the client’s life?
  2. Did you collect a waiver/release agreement signed by the client prior to participation?
  3. Was your gym and/or trainer negligent in their actions?

Gym injuries are commonplace.

Annually, emergency rooms see over 1500 patients due to gym-related injuries. Injuries from treadmill trips/falls make up the highest number with more than 570 occurrences every year. Next are weights and weight machines injuries as described in our blog Injuries at Gyms and Homes. 

A client’s injury isn’t necessarily due to negligence

While the health club in our cited example did end up getting sued, the appeals court ruled that it was not liable. Why? The court believed that the client knew there was an inherent risk of injury when entering the facility and engaging in any sort of physical activity. She also signed a waiver upon purchasing the gym membership that stated as such. The court also found that at no time did the personal trainer or gym contribute to her injuries with faulty gym equipment, improper teaching of lift techniques, or having her perform an exercise that was inherently dangerous or beyond her ability.

So, where could liability fall on the fitness center and owner?

Liability falls on the gym with the obvious and maybe not so obvious.

  1. Faulty and broken gym equipment. Proper maintenance, repairs, and a procedure for checking all equipment reduce your risks. Remove or tape off faulty or damaged equipment until repaired.
  2. Wet or uneven flooring. Proper signage warning about wet floors or making members aware of steps or uneven floors is critical. Slip-trip-and-fall accidents are the most common source of injuries.
  3. Improper storage of potentially dangerous objects. Lock chemicals, cleaning products, cleaning equipment, and tools in a room or cabinet.
  4. Improper advice or training. Yes, a trainer can be sued for improperly instructing a client or member on how to use equipment or weights. This is one reason it is essential that you have a standard operating procedure for client training, instruction, and documentation to which all trainers must adhere.  

How can you better protect yourself as a fitness facility and owner?

We all know accidents will happen. Especially when people are in a gym with equipment or performing new exercises or techniques they might not have performed before. While your focus is always the health and wellness of your members, peace of mind for you and your trainers should also be at the forefront. 

Having the correct insurance in place is a great way to start. But also important are non-insurance protections such as the use of waiver/release forms and risk management procedures and checklists that will help to prevent an injury from ever becoming an insurance claim.

Proper documentation for your policies and procedures is important, as well. This includes how to handle injuries: What is the process when a member gets injured? Immediate documentation following the incident, with photos if possible, can help prevent the he-said-she-said situation and may prevent litigation. To be prudent, document if a member continues using the facility following their injury. Track members with a key fob or membership card.

What is the bottom line?

The more proactive you are taking safety and wellbeing measures for everyone, the more peace of mind you can have as a gym owner.

We highly recommend that all personal trainers and fitness club owners/operators read Risks that Could Put Your Fitness Center Out of Business and Injuries at Gyms and Homes. the more peace of mind you can have as a gym owner.

Sadler offers Fitness Instructor Insurance specifically designed to meet the unique needs of personal trainers of all types, including aerobics, yoga, and pilates. We also offer several Health Club Insurance programs, one of which will meet your facility’s needs. You can get a fast quote by clicking the links above or calling 800-622-7372

* This scenario is described in an article published in the June 2021 issue of Hackney Publications Sports Facilities and the Law.

$300M Locker Room Peeping Lawsuit Alleges Child Abuse / Privacy Issues

Lessons to be learned about managing locker rooms to prevent child abuse and invasion of privacy

The class-action lawsuit filed in S.C. State Court alleges that Bishop England High School in Charleston, South Carolina knowingly allowed windows for staff viewing of students inside the boy’s and girls’ gym locker rooms. The windows were apparently installed in 1998 when Bishop England opened their new campus. After 21 years, an undisclosed number of former and some current students spoke out against the school, which is under the oversight of the Diocese Of Charleston. The list of defendants includes not only Bishop England and the Diocese of Charleston but also Bishop Robert Guglielmone. Bishop Guglielmone recently retired in May of 2019 at the age of 75.

This case is illustrative for the youth sports clients of Sadler Sports Insurance that have locker rooms and changing rooms either on owned or leased premises or at other premises. Note that the definition of child abuse includes non-touching offenses such as voyeurism and the photographing of minors for sexual purposes when they have an expectation of privacy. There can be a fine line between the duty to monitor and prevent bullying and hazing versus sexual misconduct. The U.S. Center for SafeSport has published guidelines for locker rooms and changing areas which maximizes privacy and child abuse protection for athletes by not allowing a continuous presence by staff inside of locker rooms. Instead, staff should be located directly outside of locker rooms and should be on call if a problem arises but periodic sweeps are encouraged.

Public knowledge emerges from voyeurism charge against school employee with window overlooking locker rooms

Public knowledge first emerged in 2019 when the school’s sports information director, Jeffrey Alan Scofield, was arrested for voyeurism. The employee told detectives that his office window overlooked the boys’ locker room, and he set up his phone between the windows and blinds for video recording. He then downloaded the videos onto a school computer. The employee was subsequently fired, convicted of voyeurism, and sentenced to time served plus 18 months probation along with being listed under the state’s sexual offender registry with a requirement to seek mental health counseling.

Defendants sued for $300 million for invasion of privacy and sexually abusive actions

The lawsuit alleges that Bishop England engaged in “dishonest, deceptive and sexually abusive actions” when it failed to protect students. The charges include invasion of privacy, various acts of negligence, breach of warranty, and unjust enrichment. The Diocese publicly denounced the accusation as having absolutely no merit stating thehigh school sued for $300 million for viewing windows in locker room windows were in place merely to supervise students to prevent smoking, bullying, fighting, and other improper behavior. The plaintiffs are asking for $300 million in damages. Larry Richter, a previous graduate of the high school in the 1960s, is the attorney handling the case on behalf of the plaintiffs. Richter enacted a previous class-action case against the Diocese of Charleston. He won a $12 million settlement on the grounds of child sexual abuse.

Since 1998, students undressed in front of coaches who had access to the windows. Richter claims the school did nothing for years to get rid of the windows. He further questions why they were ever installed in the first place.

Since the filing of the lawsuit, Bishop England has subsequently boarded over the windows and replaced them with a brick wall.

Trainings and procedures to protect students from child sexual abuse

Bishop England firmly states that they have all the proper procedures and screenings in place for new employees. The school requires all new staff to:

  • Pass a background check
  • Attend child abuse prevention training
  • Attend student boundary training
  • Sign a code of conduct overseeing how they interact with minors

Huge number of potential sex abuse victims from locker room setting

But despite these requirements and trainings, child abuse allegedly still occurred. With 687 students in the student-body, Bishop Englandsexually abusive locker room windows, high school sued High School is the largest Catholic high school in the state. Over the course of 21 years, the number of students victim to peering is theoretically in the thousands. The number gets even larger. Richter states that visiting athletes from other schools shared the locker rooms as well.

How this case applies to youth sports organizations that use locker rooms and changing areas

While this lawsuit’s subject matter occurred in the school setting, youth sports participants are subject to the same types of invasion of privacy and sexual abuse. Child abuse is not limited to just inappropriate touching. The definition of illegal child abuse is quite broad and includes voyeurism and inappropriately videotaping youth in various states of undress.

In the past, youth sports administrators keyed in solely on criminal background checks to protect their youth from predators. The problem with putting all the eggs in the background check basket is that the vast majority of predators don’t have a detectable criminal background. 

Therefore, merely running background checks is not enough to protect youth. The Safe Sport Act requires sports organizations at a minimum to provide:

  • Mandatory educational training of adult staff and volunteers with access to youth. This should include defining the various forms of child abuse including no touching offenses such as voyeurism and how to handle locker room and changing room settings.
  • Offer minor training at the discretion of the parent/guardian
  • Implement policies and procedures to reduce the chances of an incident
  • Report suspicions to local law enforcement within 24 hours
  • Prohibit retaliation for whistleblowers

Sadler Sports Insurance offers free child abuse risk management content

Be sure to check out our free child abuse/molestation risk management content which includes the industry-leading blog on the Safe Sport Act, child abuse risk management templates, types of criminal background checks, and sources of criminal background checks. The document entitled Sadler Safe Sport Child Abuse and Other Misconduct Risk Management Plan includes a section on how to manage locker rooms and changing areas.


Caitlin Byrd. SC’s largest Catholic high school sued for $300M for invasive locker room windows. The State. February 4, 2021.

Drew Tripp. Bishop England, Diocese of Charleston sued for $300M over student exploitation claims. ABC News 4. February 4, 2021.

Catherine Kohn and Kenna Coe. $300 million lawsuit filed against Bishop England High School. Moultrie News. February 4, 2021.


Falling Tree Branch Kills Child on Playground: $3.6M Settlement

Most sports and recreation complexes have this exposure

A recent news story in our local paper illustrates perfectly how recreation organizations and facility owner/operators can be liable, even when they appear to be following best risk management practices.

A tree limb  fell on a 3-year-old boy who was playing on a park playground in the town of Irmo, SC. Tragically, he died from his injuries. His parents alleged negligence on the part of the town hall and six companies involved in the planning and construction of the park.

A settlement of $3.6 million was reached, though none of the defendants admitted liability. The mayor insists the boy’s death was the result of an “act of God.”

The allegations and the defense

In the suit, the parents claimed that those involved in building the park neglected to clear trees that could constitute a threat or danger. They also alleged earlier complaints about falling limbs around the play area were ignored by town officials and that warning signs.

The trees in the three Irmo parks undergo weekly inspections, according to the town’s mayor. Approximately 100 were removed in the last three years. Independent specialists inspected the tree involved in the lawsuit after the boy’s death and found it to be healthy. The mayor also said that the town contracts for quarterly inspections of park trees by specialists.

What this means for you

Under common law principles, the property owner can be held liable for negligence if a dead tree or branch falls and injures a third party. However, old trees often have branches that are alive, as evidenced by greenery that falls due to rotting. Even if the law is on your side, defense can be expensive. And juries are often swayed by the amount of damages instead of the technicalities of the law of negligence. It’s best to play it safe and be over aggressive when eliminating older trees and pruning questionable branches. In addition, it might be helpful to post signage about the dangers of falling branches.

Source: Tim Flach. “Family settles lawsuit after tree limb kills child in Irmo park.” 31 May 2017.

IL High School Assn. Concussion Class-action Lawsuit Dismissed

Judge uses head in rendering decision

An Illinois concussion class-action lawsuit, which is the first concussion class action against a state high school association, has been dismissed. The suit was filed by players against the Illinois High School Association. The judge ruled that IHSA has put policies in place to improve the safety of the game and minimize brain injury risks. Judge Leroy Martin, Jr. also stated that mandating costly requirements would only cause football to be unaffordable for many schools.

The judge recognized IHSA’s efforts to protect student athletes, and that it has no direct relationship to football or the plaintiffs. In addition, his written decision read in part, “Imposing broader liability on this defendant would certainly change the sport of football and potentially harm it or cause it to be abandoned.”

The suit against the IHSA is the first of its kind against an organization overseeing high school football. The plaintiffs were asking the court to supervise high school management of football head injuries and seeking payment for medical testing of former students who played from as far back as 2002. The suit’s lead plaintiff played from 2010 to 2014 and states he continues to suffer memory loss from injuries suffered during that time.

The arguments

IHSA argued that it’s not an NFL-like cash cow and has an annual revenue of only $10 million to cover over 40 sports and other activities among the state’s high schools. There would be no room in the budget to comply with any requirements imposed by the court, according Thomas Heiden, the attorney representing IHSA.  He also argued that covering the payment the plaintiffs requested would lead to poorer schools shutting down their football programs and leaving only the students in wealthy schools eligible to participate.

According to plaintiffs’ attorney Joe Siprut, IHSA was giving the false notion that high school football is being threatened, and that improved safety would lead to its survival. He argued that the sport is already in danger since many fearful parents are not allowing their students to play.

In my opinion

This is a common sense ruling that may help to restore some balance against the media and research group-induced paranoia that evidently needs youth and high school football to be very dangerous to serve their interests. But, of course, this is just a trial court ruling and we probably have not seen the last of these. The good news is that the educational outreach programs and new risk management protocols seem to be having a positive impact.

Source: Michael Tarm and Sara Burnett, “Judge Tosses Concussions Lawsuit,” 20 Oct., 2015.

Benching of Youth Participants and Resulting Lawsuits

Parents who pay want their child to play

It’s not yet what you’d call a trend, but there’s certainly an uptick in the number of parents filing lawsuits to get their child off the bench and onto the playing field.

Parents put out big bucks in registrations fees, equipment and travel costs associated with high school and youth club and travel teams, to say nothing of the time they invest attending practices and traveling to games. Many parents sacrifice their time and money for their children hoping to get the attention of college coaches, earn scholarships, and improve chances of college admissions – or even advance a professional athletic career. So, it’s understandable that some are dissatisfied when their child rides the bench more than he or she plays. In other words, they expect a payoff for their investment.

There is also an increase in lawsuits by parents of children who have been cut from teams, injured, disciplined by coaches or penalized by officials. But is hiring an attorney the answer? Many are questioning not only the attitude of entitlement, but how the children, who generally play for the fun and camaraderie, are affected by such lawsuits. What are the children learning when parents step in so heavily handed to smooth the way? Will they learn they’re entitled to play on a team simply because they attend practice? And are parents setting these athletes up to be bullied by other team members?

The increasingly competitive nature of youth sports has helped shift many parents’ focus from fun, exercise and sportsmanship to an investment in their children’s academic and professional futures. Youth sports officials are watching the case of a 16-year-old volleyball player. The girl earned spot on a volleyball league but ended up on the bench, so her parents filed suit against the volleyball association, alleging it won’t let the girl play or to switch teams, per the contract she signed.

General Liability policies, which typically only respond to certain lawsuits alleging bodily injury or property damage, don’t cover these types of lawsuits that allege loss of college scholarship or loss of pro career. Such lawsuits generally require a Professional Liability endorsement on a General Liability policy or a stand alone Professional Liability policy.

Source: Tracey Schelmetic,, 21 Apr. 2015.

Spotlight on Sports Disability Insurance

Lloyd’s of London claim denial based on applicant’s failure to disclose

Sports disability insurance

Photo credit: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

A former University of California football player’s landmark lawsuit against Lloyd’s of London is putting almost as much attention on sports disability insurance as the upcoming2015 NFL draft. The suit was filed by Marqise Lee, a former Trojan receiver who alleges Lloyd’s denied the  $4.5 million disability insurance claim filed.

In 2013, potential first-round draft prospect Lee chose to sit out the NFL draft and remain playing for USC for one more year. He purchased loss of value and permanent disability insurance from Lloyd’s that would ensure him the difference between his rookie contract and a baseline of $9.6 million. Lee paid the $94,600 premium using funds from an NCAA-compliant loan taken out specifically for that purpose.

Lee was injured later that season, and was forced to sit out several games and play with injuries the rest of the season. With his draft prospects greatly diminished, he was a second-round pick in 2014 and signed a four-year $5.1 million contract, resulting in the $4.5 million difference he filed for in his claim.

Lloyd’s says Lee misrepresented his injury history by failing to disclose health-related information when he applied for the policy. Lee claims Lloyd’s breached the policy and made the denial in bad faith.

As with any insurance policy, all questions on applications must be completed fully and truthfully. Otherwise, the door is open for the insurance carrier to deny a claim based on fraud in the application. The basis for such denials is that the carrier would have rejected the application or charged a much higher premium had full information been disclosed in response to the question. When gray areas arise when answering application questions, a professional insurance agent can be an invaluable resource to help guide the applicant through this sometimes difficult maze.

Source: Don Jergler, Insurance Journal, 13 Mar. 2015

AEDs and Liability in Public Schools

Will sympathy impact legislation?   

Too many communities have grieved debilitating injuries or premature deaths of high school athletes due to cardiac events. Many schools maintain automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in an effort to prevent such tragedies.

 There are no federal mandates regarding AEDs in public schools. Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa , Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin have passed legislation requiring some schools to maintain portable defibrillators.  California and Tennessee encourages placement in public schools.

But a debate has started over whether public schools can be held liable if the AEDs are not used. This stems from a lawsuit that will go before the Florida Supreme Court sometime this year.

What set the ball in motion

When an East County High School soccer player collapsed on the field, school personnel called 911 and performed CPR while waiting for emergency responders. The AED on campus was not utilized. Although paramedics were able to revive the student with a defibrillator and medication, he suffered severe brain damage and is in a vegetative state.

 The lawsuit argues that that the school district is liable. Lower courts found in favor of the school district, acknowledging that the school is legally obligated to try to help any student who becomes injured or ill on school grounds but not to authorize or direct specific treatment such as the use of an AED.

Florida ruling could have huge impact

If the Florida Supreme Court overturns the lower court ruling, there is potential for every youth sports facility or program to be affected. This includes both public and private facilities and programs, such as those run by school districts, local and state governments, parks and universities.

If this occurs, the next question will be whether AED training will be required of paid and volunteer coaches, referees, and organizers or risk being sued in the event of an episode such as the one in the current suit. And will these organizations be required to purchase other medical devices and provide training to avoid liability? And, of course, this could affect the cost of Liability Insurance, as typically is the case when claims are made.

Source: Mark Miller and Deborah J. LaFetra, “Fla. Lawsuit Set to Define Schools’ Legal Duty to Use AEDs,” Tampa Tribune.  16 Apri 2014

Swimming outings source of liability claims

Safety first at team pool parties

The swimming outing in a coach’s backyard or at a motel pool during a tournament is commonly the source of drowning or near-drowning incidents.

Drowning among youth baseball and softball players seems to be a prevalent problem in youth sports leagues. Of course, this is not isolated to just the baseball/softball arena, but more common most likely because of spring and summer activity.

An 8-year-old boy nearly drowned during his football team pool party in Arizona. His parents were in attendance but distracted for just long enough. Fortunately, the child was rescued by another alert parent.  Unfortunately, most cases that we read about do not have such happy endings.

Sport-related injuriesVigilance is the key

Drowning is the second highest cause of accidental death in children under the age of 15, according to the Center for Disease Control.. Approximately 750 children will drown next year, 375 of whom will be within 25 yards of an adult.

Accidents cannot always be prevented. It’s critical, however, to be vigilant when dealing with children in youth sports organizations. Most of the time, not every one of the children has a parent or guardian with them, especially when the team travels.  These parents trust that the coaches and volunteers that they leave their children with will be monitoring their safety and bringing them back home in one piece.

Steps toward prevention

Simple precautions can be taken to lessen the risk of drowning.

  • Participation requires passing a swim test.

  • Instill in team members “the buddy system” so they’re accountable for each other.

  • Have at least one CPR-trained adult in attendance.

  • Prohibit alcohol consumption by adults at all youth parties.

  • Adults should not be involved in any distracting activity (such as grilling, reading, talking on phone)

  • Hire a certified lifeguard and require them to provide proof of adequate General Liability insurance.

The avoidance alternative

A number of Sadler Sports insurance clients have been sued for drowning or near drowning incidents resulting in very costly settlements. I’ve personally witnessed a number of incidents around pools where parents get caught up in conversations and lose their concentration for just a split second, and that’s all it takes.

In my opinion, the risks of serious injury and resulting lawsuits are so significant with swimming parties that such activities should be avoided as their risks outweigh their benefits. Avoidance of high risk activities is sports risk management 101 and I put swimming parties right up there with the use of 15 passenger vans (tip-over risks) and sleepovers (sex abuse and molestation risk).

You can find further information on pool safety on the American Red Cross website. If you have questions, please contact us.

Mother refiles Pop Warner football suit

Did coaches violate tackling guidelines?

Additional claims and the inclusion of more defendants are the reasons behind a lawsuit being refiled against Pop Warner. Donnovan Hill, 16, is the subject of a lawsuit that was filed after being hit during a Midget Orange Bowl championship game in 2011. Hill, 13 at the time, was left parYouth tacklealyzed after tackling a running back.

Details of the amended complaint

Hills mother, Crystal Dixon, amended her complaint to include lack of training for coaches and use of a tackling technique banned by the Pop Warner league. The suit names Pop Warner, league affiliates, coaches, and the local Pop Warner board of directors. Lawyers for Dixon say the defendants are liable for instruction in an incorrect tackling technique. Hill and others on the team complained of pain and questioned their coach about the safety of tackling by leading with the head. The plaintiff asserts that coaches ignored the players’ concerns.

Rob Carey of the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro intends to prove that the coaches ignored the coaching guidelines on how players in the league are required to tackle. Carey will provide videotape evidence of Hill’s coaches specifically and repeatedly ordering their players to make hazardous tackles in clear violation of Pop Warner guidelines.

Preventing future incidents

Hill is a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair and the subject of an ESPN video. Dixon’s attorneys suspect that coaches instructing players to use the dangerous head-first technique is widespread. They are seeking maximum damages allowable by law, including punitive damages and hope the case will help put an end to the dangerous practice.

Pop Warner is currently looking to address other safety concerns in youth football. Visit the Sadler Sports blog for youth football injury statistics and other news.

Source: Matt Coker, “Donnovan Hill Lawsuit Against Pop Warner Football Refiled,” OC Weekly. 11 Mar 2014

Image: JamieL.WilliamsPhoto