Baseball Rule Under Attack in Idaho, Indiana

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

In February 2013, the Idaho Supreme Court declined to apply what is informally called the “Baseball Rule”.  Arising out of almost 150 years of litigation, the baseball rule, generally speaking, held that a team is not liable to spectators for injuries caused by batted or thrown balls.  The rationale behind this decision is the idea that watching baseball is an inherently dangerous activity done at the spectator’s own risk.  In various cases this rule has been applied to hockey and other stadium premises liability cases where the injury arises from the sporting activity itself.  This is a slightly different, but related rule, to the principle that participants in sporting events consent to the usual contacts of the sport.  The Idaho Supreme Court decided that the legislature, and not the courts, should decide whether immunity from liability should exist for sporting organizations.  Because no immunity statute existed, the court permitted the lawsuit to proceed.

The universal application of this rule over time should cause concern in the sporting community whenever there is potential erosion of both this specific rule and other sports related exceptions to general legal liability.  This week, the Indiana Supreme Court will consider whether to affirm an appellate court’s application of the Baseball Rule, and dismiss a spectator’s injury suit, or follow Idaho’s lead and permit the suit to go forward.

The potential shift in spectator liability law should serve as a reminder to all organizations that host sports competitions, that the best policy is one of accident prevention.  Coupling sound design and seating policies with appropriate warnings and any other reasonable safeguards is sound practice, even if the Baseball Rule survives in your jurisdiction.  We should always remember that common law rules are always subject to change and should not serve to excuse putting good risk management practices in place!

At Placek Consulting, we can help your organization assess and address premises risk.

Imposter Coach Collects Player Details

Written by PC News on . Posted in Board Members, Field Safety, Players, Volunteer Management

In the Uvalde (Texas) Independent School District, campus entry restrictions have been tightened after a 22 year old man was found impersonating a college softball coach. (Full story here).  The suspect was arrested after having posed as an assistant coach for the non-existent Laredo Community College softball program.  His cover story was that he had been hired to help start a softball program and was scouting for players.  Because he “looked the part” he was given access to players and obtained their contact information.    He later used this information to contact the players at all hours of the day.  He was charged with five counts of impersonating a public servant.  As a result of his conduct, additional restrictions have been placed on athletic recruiters seeking access to school campuses.

This same concern should apply to youth sports clubs in general, with respect to strangers entering your field complex for any reason.  Certainly, in the select soccer environment, scouts do come to some games.  Sports photographers often show up at public parks and offer their services.  Still other people may appear offering coaching or training services to youth players and their parents.  A good risk management program seeks to control access to youth participants even in public settings.  Field monitors should be alert to people who appear out of place or seek personal information about players. Centralizing recruiting contacts can provide a means to confirm the legitimacy of a contact.  To the extent the club can control access to the venue, strict entry/contact requirements should apply.

Placek Consulting can assist you in creating a field monitoring or vendor management plan.

Bleacher Death Leads to Lawsuit

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

A West Virginia baseball league is facing a lawsuit from the estate of a man who was injured, and later died, after falling from a set of bleachers while attending a game.  (Full story here).  The suit alleges that the victim was seated on the top row of the bleachers and his fall was occasioned by the absence of a safety rail on the bleachers.  The lawsuit alleges that the baseball league “failed to conduct a reasonable inspection of the bleachers, failed to provide a safe place for invitees to sit, failed to maintain the premises in a safe condition, failed to correct the hazardous condition and failed to warn invitees.”  The town that owns the complex was also sued, but has already filed a claim against the baseball league seeking to recover any damages it may be required to pay.

This situation should serve as a reminder to all leagues that our structures, fixtures and equipment pose potential safety risks.  Fixtures and buildings should regularly inspected, repaired as needed, and tagged and secured if they are unsafe.  The inspection and lockout procedures should be formalized and not performed in an occasional manner.  An association should not rely upon reports of unsafe conditions as the method of monitoring buildings, fixtures and equipment.  An officer should be tasked with specific responsibility and an action plan should exist in the event that unsafe conditions are discovered.

At Placek Consulting, our comprehensive risk management plans go beyond simple child protection policies and evaluate a wide range of risks effecting youth sports associations.