Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

$14.5 Million Bat Settlement

Little League, Manufacturer, and Retail Chain settle lawsuit

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

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

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


Online Training for Youth Sports Administrators

Volunteers need program management skills

Typically, volunteer administrators who supervise youth sports programs are unprepared to deal with the responsibilities of this position. This can result in inefficiencies, legal problems and adverse publicity.

Volunteer trainingThese individuals wear many hats and manage numerous league job functions such as equipment, safety, insurance for teams, background checks for staff, social media, marketing, as well finances and legal matters.

The National Youth Sports Administrators Association has an online training program that provides education in these areas and assists with making youth sports a safe and satisfying experience for all involved.

John Sadler assisted with the course development on the insurance section. See our NYSCA-endorsed team/league sports insurance program. 

Accident Insurance and Baseball

Spectator injuries not covered by Little League policy

New Jersey’s Elizabeth Lloyd, is suing for more than $150,000 in damages after being hit in the face by a baseball. Although Matthew Migliaccio was only 11 years old at the time of the incident, the lawsuit filed in April claims that Migliaccio’s overthrow from the bullpen was deliberate and reckless.

Lloyd is filing suit to cover for medical costs and pain and suffering, while her husband is suing for the loss of “services, society and consortium.”

The count alleging Migliaccio’s negligence is covered by the family’s Homeowner’s policy, but the other counts are not. Little League has denied any coverage, due to their accident policy only covering staff or players; spectators are not included.

In my opinion:

Little League is correct that spectator injuries are not covered by an Accident policy. However, “Accident like” benefits for spectator injuries up to a limit of $5,000 can be covered if the General Liability policy includes premises medical payments. Otherwise, if damages are greater than $5,000, the only recourse for an injured spectator is to sue. Such lawsuits would be covered under a General Liability policy under the Each Occurrence section. This case is similar to one that one of our league clients had about ten years ago when a spectator was hit in the jaw by an overthrow ball during pre game warm-ups. It was alleged that the league and coaches were negligent in allowing the players to form two lines for warm-ups where one line was too close to an unfenced spectator area. The carrier settled the case for around $300,000 but the damages were extensive.

-John Sadler

Source: Insurance Journal, June 26, 2012

$4.4 Million settlement for Student Head Injury

Were warning signs ignored?

On September 14, 2007, while playing in a high school football game, Scott Eveland, suffered a serious head injury that caused bleeding inside his brain.  He now has to communicate using a keyboard and is confined to a wheelchair due to extensive brain damage.

It was alleged that head coach Chris Hauser ignored warning signs.  Scott had complained to the assistant trainer the week before the game that he was having headaches and had already missed some practices.  On the day of the injury, Scott requested to sit out the first quarter due to a headache, but the head coach denied his request.  A settlement of $4.4 million has now been agreed upon by the area school district in San Diego.

Jury verdicts of this nature will pressure General Liability carriers to increase rates or restrict coverage.  There has been an outcry from high school coaches and former players who are concerned that jury verdicts will end contact sports such as tackle football.  In my opinion, this risk will be better managed in the future by the use of better waiver/release agreements, education on concussions and warning signs, baseline cognitive testing and better helmet technology.

Why Do Field/Facility Owners Require Being Named on Sports Insurance Policies?

Field / facility owners such as recreation departments, school districts, schools, and municipalities often allow outside user groups to use their premises under a lease or permit. These relationships are beneficial to all parties involved. However, field / facility owners expose themselves and their insurance carriers to liability arising from injuries that may occur on the premises arising out of the lease or permit. This is true even though the injury may be due to the 100% negligence of the outside user group.

Field / facility owners are almost always shot gunned into these lawsuits as a deep pocket even if they are 0% at fault. The defense costs and possibility of settlement or adverse jury verdict can be very expensive. This can result in unbudgeted out of pocket expenses (in event of self insurance or large deductible insurance program) or in a large loss that is paid by their insurance carrier. When these losses are paid by insurance carriers, such insurance carriers may non renew or may ask for large rate increases. Therefore, field / facility owners have a lot to lose when they make their premises available to outside user groups.

It makes sense that the group that is responsible for the injury and resulting lawsuit should be financially responsible for paying the damages. Therefore, prudent field / facility owners require outside users to carry their own insurance that meets certain minimum standards that are drafted by risk managers or attorneys employed by the field / facility owner.  Such insurance requirements specify the types of policies to be carried, minimum limits of coverage, and special coverage endorsements such as “Additional Insured” status for the premises owner.

Requiring outside user groups to be financially responsible for their own injuries and lawsuits is a good business practice. Even high limit insurance is surprisingly affordable and easy to obtain when reputable sports insurance and event insurance specialists are contacted.

Do Safety Standards Mean More Liability?

Sports organizations weigh their options

Many Sadler sports organization clients struggle with the question of whether or not to set safety or risk management standards. On one hand, they are necessary to protect against spectator and participant injuries. On the other hand, failure to follow your own standard can result in an allegation of negligence and a General Liability claim. This problem is magnified by organizations that rely on volunteer staff and are unable to adequately police the standards that have been set.

What to do? Mandate a standard? Strongly recommend it?

I came across an excellent blog post on Sports Waiver written by attorney Charles “Reb” Gregg on this topic. The author is a proponent of setting reasonable standards and believes that the potential liability for not following a standard is overstated.


Registered Sex Offenders and Youth Athletes

What if the sex offender is a parent or spectator?

Most national organizations require criminal background checks of coaches and in order to screen for sex offenders. Throughout our risk management materials you will find that even if it’s not requirement, these screenings are highly recommended.   But what should a league do when the registered sex offender is a parent or a spectator?

The first step would be to consult your local attorney since they would be familiar with the particular states laws.   Also, make sure that the organization is following its own policies and bylaws. The general liability policies that we write for national organizations may require that volunteers be screened, but not parents who aren’t volunteers.  This is because, as a general rule, only a volunteer who has repeated access to youth is in a position to groom them for molestation.

Whether background checks are required or not, a lot can be accomplished by educating the team/league, volunteers and parents on inappropriate boundary invasions.  More information can be found in our article Protecting Children Against Sexual Abuse and Molestation.

8-Year Old Sues Over Hard Softball

The eight-year-old claimant had joined a softball team for girls of her age group. While playing the infield, she was struck in the face by a ball thrown by a teammate, resulting in a fractured nose. The claimant’s parents filed suit against the softball league, the coach and the child who threw the ball. The main allegation in the suit was that the plaintiff and her parents were deceived by the defendants because the softball wasn’t soft and actually was quite hard.

Source: Liable to Laugh, Copyright 2004 American Specialty Companies, Inc.

Court Rules Cheerleading is a Contact Sport

Ruling affects unintentional injury claims

The Wisconsin Supreme'Uhhh... sorry Lincoln, this table is for equipment managers for the sports teams. I don't think cheerleading counts as a sport... yeesh, what a nerd.' Court ruled that a cheerleader who was dropped by her male teammate can’t sue him under state law. Wisconsin has a state law the prevents participants in contact sports from suing other potentially negligent participants for unintentional injuries.

NCAA studies on catastrophic injuries support the proposition that cheerleading is the leading source of catastrophic injuries including death, paralysis, and other disabilities. The most common cause of such injuries is contact with floor and contact with another participant.

Source: Wisconsin Court Bars Cheerleader’s Injury Suit Against Teammate

Metal vs. Wood Bats in Youth Baseball

Should metal bats be banned?

Do metal bats pose a significantly greater risk of injury to pitchers and infielders resulting from greater bat exit speeds and reduced reaction time? Is there enough scientific evidence to ban metal bats for youth and college baseball in favor of wood bats?

Current scientific studies do not support this conclusion as there is no increase in significant injuries that would indicate a need for a ban on metal bats in favor of wood bats. However, the final results of an important ongoing study on this issue are not yet available.

In my opinion…Youth baseball

Politicians looking for publicity and personal injury attorneys looking for large settlements and jury verdicts favor metal bats being banned in favor of wood bats. They base their opinions on anecdotal evidence. Instead, we must look to scientific studies for an answer. So far, science tells us that there is little existing evidence that would support banning metal bats that are currently approved by the various governing bodies. However, it is possible that new research may result in future recommendations for bat standards that would require certain performance modifications.

–  John Sadler

See the USA Baseball Medical and Safety Committee Position Statement on Wood vs. Metal Bat.