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.

Seattle Swim Coach’s Conduct Leads to $5 Million in Losses

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

More than a decade after firing their swim coach, a Seattle area Parks and Recreation District has settled three molestation lawsuits for a total of almost $5 million (Full Story Here).  A fourth suit was recently filed by yet another victim.  The coach, who worked in Seattle in the mid-90s, was later arrested in California for sexual abuse spanning a nearly thirty year period.  Indeed, one of the charges involved a swimmer allegedly impregnated by the coach before he was even employed in Seattle.  The coach is currently serving a 40 year prison sentence in California.

As is common in these cases, news reports indicate potential risk management warning signs.  According to the lawsuits, a number of parents, including one who was a parks commissioner at the time, raised concerns about King’s behavior toward his young female swimmers. He was often seen with a young girl seated on his lap during swim practices, and was known to take girls to dinner and send them flowers. This type of favoriting and gifting is common grooming behavior.  The lawsuits all alleged the district failed to adequately look into King’s background before hiring him, then failed to conduct annual reviews of his performance that could have led to his firing.  These allegations are consistent with the failure to screen and failure to supervise claims seen in many suits against volunteer youth sports organizations.

At Placek Consulting, we work to create policies to protect children and volunteers by creating open and transparent relationships.  We assist with training and communication with your volunteers and constituents to create a culture of child protection.  Let us review your current policies or assist you in creating a comprehensive risk management program.

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 contact form.