Archive for May, 2013

Lightning Death Lawsuit Focuses on Detection and Supervision

Written by PC News on . Posted in Field Safety, Litigation, Weather

The October 2012 lightning death of a middle school football player has led to a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida.  (Original story here.)  In the course of the lawsuit depositions and pre-trial discovery have revealed two issues that will be a focus of any trial or settlement discussions.  The private school had a lightning detector on premises, but it had not been taken out of the offices before the boy was struck.  In addition, discovery suggests that, despite weather concerns, players were sent to the field unsupervised at the time of the accident.

Weather policies are a necessary part of a risk management program.  Reading the depositions, the coaches that testified have different opinions about what is necessary and who is ultimately responsible for the decisions on the field.  (Read about depositions here.)  Although the school owned a lightning detector, it was not in use at the time.  Although the school appears to have anticipated the need for the equipment, there was no apparent protocol for its use in bad weather conditions.  Despite this, players were instructed to head to the fields.  No coaches were on the field at the time.  If lightning was visible before the strike, no coach was available to instruct the players to leave the area and take cover.  The potential risk to players from weather conditions demonstrates why players cannot be unsupervised during bad weather, and why weather policies must be well thought out and executed whenever weather threatens.

Let us review and revise your weather plan and programs.  Contact Scott Placek at 512-879-1655 or through the soccerrisk.com contact form.

 

Molesting Gymnastics Coach Threatened Scholarship Opportunities

Written by PC News on . Posted in Coaches, Molestation, Volunteer Management

In Colorado, a elite level gymnastics coach faces charges of molesting two boys he trained in the mid-2000’s.  The coach was arrested in Houston, Texas, where he had been working as a coach until the investigation into the Colorado charges led to his firing.  (Full story here).  According to the report, male gymnast between 12 and 14 were molested while alone with the coach.  Pornographic videos were used to lower inhibitions and students were told they were special and his favorite.  To assure silence, the coach allegedly threatened to ruin the college scholarship prospects of any students that reported him.  The story as reported again shows multiple signs of risk management failure.  In particular, allegations that another coach reported concerns over the offender’s behavior with his students leaves the gym in a precarious legal position.

One of the key implementation recommendations we give in developing a risk management plan is the importance of establishing a clear reporting and investigative system.  In this case, the reports do not detail what, if any investigation followed the reports from a fellow coach.  coach did not personally witness any sexual contact, but told management on several occasions about Barke’s behavior.  The coach said the accused would take a “special interest” in certain gymnasts and touched them in a way that was “not necessary” while spotting them or working on training exercises. He also insisted on giving certain students rides home.

That report indicates potential grooming behaviors, including slowly breaking down physical barriers, heaping special attention on certain students, and creating moments of isolation with the student.  The observations of a fellow coach should be taken very seriously and a thorough investigation should have occurred.  Moreover, consider the standard child protection policies that appear not to be in place.  A two adult policy would prohibit one on one time.  A transportation policy would prohibit staff transport of players in isolated conditions.  In addition, the molestation is alleged to have occurred outside the gym.  Extra-organization contact policies should have barred such contact.

Consider the potential outcome if when the report came in from the fellow coach, it was clear that child protection policies were not followed.  An investigation could have possibly prevented future abuse or prevented the coach from later working in a similar position in Houston.

At Placek Consulting, we understand that child protection policies are the first line of defense against predatory behavior.  Combined with a sound reporting and investigative system, a Placek Consulting risk management plan provides a road map to assure that coaches who display indifference toward child safety are identified and removed from your organization.  Let us help you update or implement a child protection plan for your organization.

$8 Million Dollar Verdict against NCYSA Highlights Need for Risk Management

Written by PC News on . Posted in Governing Bodies, Insurance, Litigation

A jury has found the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association negligent in the death of two young soccer players in a 2004 bus accident in France.  The jury awarded about $8.3 million in compensatory damages to be divided between the parents of two Olympic Development Program (“ODP”) players killed during a European tour.  In 2004, the North Carolina 1990 boys ODP team went on a tour of France.  During bad weather, the bus they were traveling in overturned in a ditch.  Two players died and several others were injured.  Suit was filed in North Carolina against the state association.  After many delays, the case went to trial and a verdict against the state association was returned, totaling $8.3 million.  (See full story here). The suit accused the N.C. Youth Soccer Association of failing to look into the safety record of the bus company used on the trip.  The lawyer for the families was quoted as saying “On this trip, all the emphasis was on soccer.  It wasn’t on safety.”

While the deaths are certainly tragic, such a verdict can leave association executives shaking their heads.  How can such liability be placed on the state association for an accident in a foreign country when transportation had been contracted out to properly certificated companies.  If this verdict can be rendered, how can a state association (or a local club with teams that travel) possibly protect itself?  Risk management planning is one approach to avoiding these situations.

One component of a risk management program is the evaluation of insurance coverages.  Using the South Texas YSA coverage as an example, the standard policy provides $1,000,000 in liability coverage with a $4,000,000 excess layer of coverage.  Obviously an $8 million verdict exceeds this coverage.  As day to day coverage goes, a $1M/$4M primary/excess liability policy is usually sufficient and prudent.  If a club or association undertakes a special event or program, however, the club should examine the possibility of obtaining an additional layer of excess insurance coverage.  Excess coverage is usually fairly inexpensive because it is only triggered if all the underlying policies are exhausted.  Moreover, excess insurers do not have the expense of defending lawsuits.  The primary carrier undertakes the defense.  For that reason, millions of dollars in excess coverage can be obtained at very reasonable rates.

A second consideration in a tour like this is the use of additional insured status and indemnity agreements to provide protection to the association.  A trip like this should not be booked or logistically planned by the association.  A professional travel planner should be engaged.  The engagement agreement should require the travel planner to undertake all due diligence for all vendors used on the trip.  Moreover, the travel planner should be required to indemnify the association for any claims of negligence in the planning of the trip and to name the association as an additional insured on its liability policies.  If the trip is domestic, all vendors should likewise indemnify the association and provide an additional insured status to make coverage available to the association.  At Placek Consulting, we use a standard vendor clause in our risk management plans to assure that the association is protected by the vendors it uses.

Despite best efforts, tragedies can happen.  In that instance, your risk management planning will be put to the test.  With sound planning, the chances of long term risk to the financial viability of the association can be minimized.  Hope for the best but plan for the worst is more than an old adage.  The verdict in North Carolina should remind us all of the very real risk that litigation poses to the ongoing survival of our organization.  If we can assist you in reviewing your coverages or risk management program, contact us at info ‘at’ placekconsulting.com or through the soccerrisk.com website.