Posts Tagged ‘lawsuit’

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.

$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’ or through the website.


Volunteer Management: AAU Sued Over Coach Molestation Claims

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

A local AAU association, along with the national organization, has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by victims of a coach who is currently serving a life sentence for child molestation.  (Read Full Story Here).  The suit alleges that the coach engaged in “open and notorious” sexualized grooming of his young male players, and that nobody associated with the AAU did anything to stop it.  In addition to suing the AAU groups, the suit has named the coach’s ex-wife, a school district alleged to be affiliated with the AAU team, and the principal of the high school the players attended.  Among the allegations in the suit are claims that while in the coach’s home, the coach “would grab the plaintiff’s genitals and make inappropriate sexual comments about the plaintiff.”

This suit, of course, touches on many of the issues of volunteer management.  Clearly, there is extra-organizational contact if the player is in the coach’s home.  The suit alleges open and notorious conduct that was not acted on.  (There are no details of whether any allegations were brought to the attention of either AAU organization.)  In the underlying criminal trial, allegations were made that the abuse began on an out of town trip.  This raises questions of whether travel policies existed or were enforced.  The coach was also a volunteer youth football, baseball and soccer coach.  At that time, the youth organizations noted that the coach had passed the background checks.  This again affirms the importance of a volunteer management program that relies on more than background checks to monitor volunteers in contact positions with players.

It is sadly telling that so many stories of arrests of youth coaches are followed by what seems to be a standard response that the coach passed a background check.  Background checks are of extremely limited utility in preventing child abuse.  First, background checks are not full or complete — there is no national criminal database that non-governmental organizations have access to.  A background check relies on public records databases.  How complete and up to date these databases are varies by jurisdiction.  Second, background checks will generally only flag people with convictions within the severity and time period of the search parameter.  Predators who have never been charged will not fail a background check.

Background checks serve a limited role.  They should be, at most, a component of a broader screening and management process.  At Placek Consulting we work with local youth clubs to craft customized screening and management policies oriented toward player safety.  If we can assist you in making sure your youth protection policies include both effective volunteer screening and management policies, contact us via our website or at 512-879-1655.