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.

After It’s Too Late

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

In the midst of the challenges of running your programs and preparing for the next season, it is easy to let risk management planning slip by the way side.  Every week, coaches from settings varying from university to youth athletics are accused of improper behavior.  Often, it is difficult to imagine how such behavior went unchecked and unmonitored.  The answer is simple: often we don’t address the problem until it’s too late.

In Pennsylvania, a local school board recently adopted an adult-student interaction policy.  Consisting of five pages of detailed instructions, it “restricts electronic communications with students to the school’s systems and outlines what is inappropriate to discuss with students and where and how interactions take place. It even bans knowingly engaging in online gaming with students.” (Full story here).  But the policy didn’t come out of a considered and proactive approach to risk management.  It followed the arrest of a coach for “institutional sexual assault and corrupting a minor” — a sixteen year old female student.  Despite the fact that electronic communications are a primary grooming method used by abusers, the school had no policies in place to address the interaction between its staff and students.

However, some organizations do act proactively.  In Tennessee, an arrested youth football coach is demanding reinstatement after the league suspended him following his arrest.  The coach was charged with a road rage incident and threatening a 16 year old driver with a knife.  In addition, burned marijuana cigarettes were found in the car.  At the time of his arrest, a closed knife was found on the dashboard.  Incredibly, parents from the team he coaches started a petition to have him reinstated.  (Full story here).  Although the coach is certainly entitled to a presumption of innocence on the criminal charges, a youth sports organization is entitled to act to protect its participants pending the outcome of the trial, and would even be justified in denying future participation if it so decided.  This type of proactive, kids first attitude is to be commended.

At Placek Consulting, we work with youth sports associations to address issues before they become problems.  We give you the tools to manage your volunteers and staff in an atmosphere that conveys professionalism and respect while still focusing on child protection.  Find out how we can help you.  Call Scott Placek at 512-487-RISK (7475).

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.

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