A few years ago, a high school freshman basketball player at Campbell County High School in Cold Springs, Kentucky suffered a severe break of his arm during basketball practice. His parents, true to the litigious American culture, sued the school’s two basketball coaches. The negligence suit, filed against the coaches in their official capacity as employees of the board of education, claimed that the coaches “mishandled the situation”.

 Coaches Are Generally Not Liable for Their Players’ Injuries

It has long been established in intercollegiate and high school athletics that schools, together with the coaches they employ, are not responsible for ensuring the health and safety of student-athletes. Moreover, schools and coaches are not held strictly liable for injuries sustained by student-athletes in the course of athletic participation.

In addition, courts have held that high school and college athletes assume the inherent risks involved with a sport. The voluntary nature of the athlete’s participation in the activity usually allows schools and coaches to escape liability for injuries that are considered part of the game.

 Coaches Have a Duty to Take Reasonable Precautions

While athletes may consent to undertake a wide variety of risks inherent to their particular sport, there are certain risks that they may not necessarily assume. Courts have determined that even though schools and coaches are not strictly liable for player injuries, they do have a duty to their players and must do everything practical to minimize the risk of injury to players under their control.

A Florida court decision has given some direction as to when liability may be imposed upon high schools and coaches. In Leahy v. School Board, 450 So.2nd 883, (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1984), the court held as follows:

The duty owed an athlete takes the form of giving adequate

instruction in the activity, supplying proper equipment, making a reasonable selection or matching of participants, providing non-negligent supervision of the particular contest, and taking proper post-injury procedures to guard against aggravation of injuries.

Several other courts have defined the duty of care owed by coaches and high schools to student-athletes. In Kahn v. East Side Union High School District, 75 P.3rd 30, (Cal. 2003), the court stated that a coach will breach his duty to a student-athlete if the coach “intentionally injures the student or engages in conduct that is reckless in the sense that it is ‘totally outside the range of the ordinary activity’ involved in teaching or coaching the sport.” The court went on to say that coaches do not have a duty to eliminate all risk presented by the sport but rather have a duty “not to increase the risk inherent to learning, practicing, or performing the sport.”

The More Dangerous the Sport, the Greater the Responsibility the Coach Bears

The relevant court decisions indicate that at a minimum, coaches must provide proper supervision, training, and instruction. Coaches should take measures to ensure that players follow the rules of the game in an effort to avoid injuries. Coaches must warn against all known dangers or dangers that should have or could have been discovered in the exercise of reasonable care. In addition, coaches must supervise their players in proportion to how dangerous the activity is. The more dangerous the sport, the greater the responsibility the coach bears.

Coaches Must Provide Proper Protective Equipment

In addition, coaches may be found liable if an injured player was not provided with the proper protective and safety equipment and, even further, the coach must see to it that the athlete was properly instructed as to the appropriate use of this equipment. A coach must also see that the equipment is properly maintained so that its effectiveness is maximized.

A coach may never be free from all potential theories of liability, but a coach can protect himself or herself by using reasonable care and ensuring that athletes under his or her supervision are fully prepared, and protected, before stepping foot on the field or court.

Robert J. Romano, Esq. is the General Counsel for RISE International which specializes in representing NCAA and Professional League Coaches in all aspects of contract negotiations. For more information, visit his web site at http://www.rise-sports.com, or contact him at rjr2128@caa.columbia.edu

Sports Law Expert Robert J. Romano will be a guest on the Jimmy Barrett Show WRVA 1140am this Thursday, August 21, 2014 – to discuss MLB’s selection of its new Commissioner.  Please feel free to join in on the discussion.

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Sports Attorney Robert J. Romano will be a guest on FOX Sports Radio, Wednesday, April 30, 2014, from 7 am until 11 am, to discuss NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s Lifetime Ban of Los Angles Clippers Owner, Donald Sterling, together with any and all legal issues involving such suspension.

Sports Attorney Robert J. Romano will be a guest on FOX Sports Radio, Wednesday, February 12, 2014, from 7 am until 11 am, to discuss Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam publicly acknowledging that he is gay, making him potentially the first openly gay NFL player.

Attorney Robert J. Romano will be a guest on WHBC – News Talk 1480 AM with today, Thursday, January 16, 2013 at 3:35 p.m. est to discuss the Alex Rodriguez’s lawsuit against Major League Baseball and the reasons why the Federal Judge rejected the agreement filed in the NFL’s concussion lawsuit.

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Attorney Robert J. Romano will be a guest on the Eddie & Tracy Show – 700 WLW
 in Cincinnati, Ohio, today, January 14, 2014, at 4:45 pm to discuss Alex Rodriguez 162 game suspension from Major League Baseball – even though he has never tested positive for using Performance Enhancing Drugs.

Please listen live at: http://www.700wlw.com/main.html

Sports Attorney Robert J. Romano will be a guest on Florida Sports New with Jimmy Cefalo – WIOD 601 AM/100.3 FM, Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at 6:10 am to discuss the 211 game suspension of Alex Rodriguez handed down by Major League Baseball.  A-Rod will appeal the lengthly suspension but what is the likely outcome of such appeal?

Sports Attorney Robert J. Romano will be a guest on FOX Sports Radio, Tuesday, August 6, 2013 from 7 am until 11 am, to discuss the suspension of Alex Rodriguez from Major League Baseball due to his alleged ties to the Biogenesis Clinic.  Will A-Rod Appeal the suspension and what is the likely outcome of such Appeal?

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun has been suspended 65 games by Major League imagesBaseball for alleged ties to performance enhancing drugs distributed by the now defunct Biogenesis clinic. Alex Rodriguez and more than twenty other current MLB players are under investigation by MLB for their alleged ties to the same clinic.

Luckily for Braun, Alex Rodriguez, and the rest of these players they are represented by the MLB Players Association. Or is it? MLBPA executive director, Michael Weiner, has publicly stated that the current MLBPA is “not interested” in protecting players where overwhelming evidence exists that they have used PEDs.

Mr. Weiner emphasized that the current Players Association prioritizes a clean system and stated that the PA will attempt to “make a deal” for players where MLB has significant PED evidence against them.

“I can tell you, if we have a case where there really is overwhelming evidence that a player committed a violation of the program, our fight is going to be that they make a deal,” Weiner stated. “We’re not interested in having players with overwhelming evidence that they violated the [drug] program out there. Most of the players aren’t interested in that. We’d like to have a clean program.”

Not long ago the MLBPA would have gone toe-to-to with MLB and its intentions in the Biogenesis investigation and fought relentlessly for the rights of its collective membership.

Just over 10 years ago, in June 2002, then-union executive director, Donald Fehr, was against random drug tests and maintained that it was in the best interest of the MLBPA to protect the privacy of the players.  Fehr stated, ”We believe that any program can be successful on steroids, or anything else, only if stringent safeguards are in place to protect the privacy of the employees, particularly so in baseball in which the lives of the players are so much in the public eye.”

That being said, because of pressures placed upon the PA by MLB – since it threatened not to enter into a new CBA unless the PA agreed that drug protocols were included – the PA agreed to limited drug testing of its players.  However, the initial protocols put in place did not have an accompanying system of penalties. The testing protocols agreed to, in effect, would not lead to suspensions or get a player in trouble in anyway.

By 2005, the drug-testing slope got slipperier and a system of penalties was initialed. By the 2006 season the penalties for players who violated the drug protocols were set to the current 50-100-life format.

These penalties, however, were not enforced unilaterally by MLB.  Any enforcement and subsequent suspension had to go before an independent arbitrator and the MLBPA defended its players at these hearing, fighting for the player and the rights of its memberships.  Specifically, only last year the PA backed Braun when he won his appeal of a positive testosterone test following the 2011 season. Additionally, there have been 10 to 15 unreported cases of the PA convincing MLB to forgo enforcing suspensions.

Now, however, the MLBPA has done an about-face and is willing to cut deals and work with MLB rather than go toe-to-toe with it over Biogenesis.

The PA’s position now is that there will be arbitration only if agreements can’t be reached with the Commissioner’s office when suspensions are announced.  Specifically, the PA is willing to concede that player suspensions as outlined in the Joint Drug Agreement may not apply to player involved with the Biogenesis Clinic.  These players can be suspended under the Commissioner’s “just cause” discretion in the Joint Drug Agreement.

Per Section 7.G of the Joint Drug Agreement, a player may be subjected to disciplinary action for “just cause” by the Commissioner.  Additionally, per Section B under Article XII of the CBA, “Players may be disciplined for just cause for conduct that is materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests of Baseball including, but not limited to, engaging in conduct in violation of federal, state, or local law.”

Apparently, the PA has interest in fighting for the rights of its membership where the PA decides that the player is unworthy of a good fight.

The MLBPA once acted like an association that would do everything and anything within its power to protect its membership.  Now it’s acting like an association that will only pick its battles when it is politically correct to do so.  A PA that is more concerned with good PR that with the livelihood of its members.  This does not seem like the Players Association that Marvin Miller, Donald Fehr and Gene Orza envisioned.

Attorney Robert J. Romano will be a guest on WHBC – News Talk 1480 AM with Sam Bourquin today, Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 4:10 p.m. est to discuss the arrest of former New England Patriot Tight End Aaron Hernandez’s arrest for 1st Degree Murder and the fact that since this years NFL Super Bowl, 27 other NFL players have been arrested on various criminal charges.

News Talk 1480

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