Club Sued Over Player-Coach Sexual Misconduct; Lack of Policies Alleged

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

Black Hills Soccer Club, Former Coach Face Sex Abuse Lawsuit

A 23 year old former player has filed suit against her former coach and club alleging that the coach groomed her for years before convincing her to engage in a sexual relationship at the age of 17.    The coach was relieved of his duties, but had been with the club for over a decade.  In 2010, the coach had:

fallen under the suspicion of the Lacey Police Department, after he was contacted by officers February of 2010 with the victim in his van.

According to the police report, an officer responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle parked on Beckonridge Lane SE just after 9 p.m. The reporting party said the van had been parked for about an hour.

The officer found Cross, then 45, and the victim inside the van. The victim initially told the officer that she was 18, but later admitted that she was 17.

The victim said that Cross had pulled off of the road after feeling dizzy, and they had been talking. The officer wrote in the report that he believed Cross’s actions were, “highly suspect and inappropriate.”

Despite this report, no action was taken against the coach and he continued with the club.  The suit alleges that “the club didn’t have policies in place to prevent coaches from engaging in social interactions with players, texting and calling players for personal reasons, or spending time alone with players.”   The club contends that such a policy was in existence.  This “case isn’t the first in which a Black Hills Football Club coach was accused of an inappropriate relationship with a player. In 2002, former coach Dennis Jones was arrested and charged with five counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, and one count of providing liquor to a minor.”
Placek Consulting can provide your soccer club not only with policies on player-coach interaction, but with an  implementation plan to make player safety a club priority and establish reliable reporting and investigative processes.

Lakewood Pop Warner Sued, Alleged Improper Coaching Leads to Paraplegia

Written by PC News on . Posted in Board Members, Coaches, Litigation, Medical, Training

Could bad coaching lead to a lawsuit against your league? If the result is player injury, it can and already has. Yet another suit has been filed against a local sports league and its directors contending that a coach’s negligent instruction caused injury to the player. (Full story here).

The Lakewood (CA) Pop Warner association, its officers and directors, and the players coach were named in a suit filed recently in California Superior Court. The suit alleges that the player’s coaches repeatedly saw him unsafely tackle opponents head-first in both practices and games but did not attempt to correct his technique. The suit also alleges this was taught and that the players were given “repeated and incorrect instruction that Hill and his teammates tackle opposing players by leading with the head, rather than placing the head on the outside of the opposing player, as directed in national Pop Warner rules and coaching materials.”

According the the player’s attorneys “[f]ilm footage of the game shows Hill consistently making tackles with his head down, according to the complaint. At the moment of injury, Hill’s body went limp after making contact with another player while attempting a tackle with his head down. Doctors at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center later determined that Hill suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury, resulting in quadriplegia.”

This suit highlights how coaching education is a necessary part of any risk management plan. When we are delivering services directly to youth participants, it is vital that the person directing and instructing the players be properly trained and aware of the latest safety recommendations. The suit against the directors claims that no protocol existed to make sure the tackling rules and safety protocol were being enforced. Willful blindness will not protect an organization from suit.

One of the frequent objections we here in our presentations is a complete misconception that developing rules will render the organization more liable if they are not later enforced. This suit highlights the point we make: you are far more likely to be sued, and in a far worse position with a jury, if you ignore known risks and choose not to make policies. Enforcement and reporting is a part of every risk management plan, and we help you there too.

See how we can help your organization be proactive and develop player safety policies that are implementable and enforceable. Contact us at 512-487-RISK.

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.