Posts Tagged ‘sports’

Disappearing swings, cont’d

In addition to liability and safety fears, the Americans with Disabilities Act turns out to play a role in the decline of swing sets at public playgrounds: it seems the least expensive way to make a swing set safer is to surround it with sand, but sand is considered a non-accessible surface for wheelchairs which makes it suspect under the ADA. (Scott Simonson, “Safety rules retiring playground standby”, Arizona Daily Star, Sept. 7). See Mar. 28, Aug. 23, etc.

Diving’s decline

The once dominant U.S. men’s and women’s diving teams suffered their worst performance ever at the Athens Olympics, shut out from medals for the first time since diving was introduced at as an Olympic sport 92 years ago. (“Chinese dive to record haul”, AFP/Independent Online (South Africa), Aug. 29). Why the falloff? “After a golden age in the seventies — a decadent, late-Roman last hurrah — the American pool has suffered a gradual decline: thanks, for the most part, to concerns about safety and liability, diving boards have been removed and deep ends undeepened. At municipal pools across the country, the once-ubiquitous one-metre springboard has become an endangered species; and the three-metre high dive — the T. rex of the community pool — is now virtually extinct. … Ron O?Brien, U.S.A. Diving?s national technical director, and the former coach of Greg Louganis, said last week, ‘You can’t put your finger on any one thing, but having so many diving boards taken out around the country has had a serious impact on our sport, no question about it.'” (Field Maloney, “Cannonball!”, The New Yorker, Aug. 30 issue (posted Aug. 23))(via Common Good)(more about pool and diving liability).

Update: Derrick Thomas responsible for own crash

After less than a day of deliberations, jurors rejected a lawsuit claiming that General Motors was responsible for the death of former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, who was speeding on ice without a seat belt at the time of his fatal crash four years ago (see Nov. 28, 2000). The ruling was a setback to attorney Michael Piuze (Jun. 19, 2001, Sept. 24, 2001, Oct. 4-6, 2002), who argued the case for the plaintiffs. (“GM Wins In Derrick Thomas Wrongful Death Trial”,, Aug. 17).

The family, as we noted in our earlier item on the case, had also sued local ambulance service Emergency Providers Inc. and Liberty Hospital, both of which tried to save Thomas after the accident. The ambulance company settled, as did a Chevrolet dealership. “There was no dispute that the Suburban’s roof was far stronger than federal standards, but the family contended that those standards were insufficient and needed to be changed. … Almost whispering to the jury, [Piuze] asked them for from $75 million to more than $100 million in damages, saying he did not want to put an upper limit on it.” We’ll bet he didn’t (Joe Lambe, San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 17).

$2M suit against city for home plate collision

Over-35 Men’s Slow-Pitch softball player Michael Licitra is suing an opposing player, John Knowles, and the Village of Garden City for $2 million over a broken left leg suffered in a collision at home plate in September 2001. Knowles claims he legally slid head-first; Licitra claims it was a collision that violated league softball rules, though that doesn’t explain why it’s the city’s fault. (Jonathan Mummolo, “Injured softballer crying foul”, Newsday, Jul. 15) (via Romenesko). State Supreme Court Justice Bruce D. Alpert held that the doctrine of assumption of risk “did not relieve the defendant from the obligation of using reasonable care to guard against a risk which might reasonably be anticipated,” which begs the question what Garden City should’ve done differently other than ban softball.

Which, according to Alex Tabarrok, is what is happening to the British school tradition of playing conkers, which occasionally results in bruises from inadvertent (but apparently inevitable) contact. Liability concerns are causing schools to ban the game–along with rugby, soccer, and even recess. The New York Times has an article about the larger issue of the growing problem of American-style lawsuits in Britain. Medical negligence claim costs have risen more than a hundredfold after inflation in the last thirty years. (Sarah Lyall, “Britain’s Stiff Upper Lip Is Being Twisted Into a Snarl”, Jul. 13).

Staggered sports schedules again found to violate Title IX

“Separate soccer seasons for girls’ teams in two Westchester, N.Y., school districts violate civil rights laws banning gender discrimination in athletics, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled [last month].” The Mamaroneck and Pelham school districts had unsuccessfully argued that logistical concerns — notably a shortage of soccer fields to play on — justified the practice of having boys play soccer in the fall and girls in the spring. (Mark Hamblett, “Separate Soccer Found to Violate Civil Rights”, New York Law Journal, Jun. 8). For a similar ruling in Michigan, see Dec. 24-27, 2001; letter to the editor, Feb. 28, 2002. More: May 7, 2005.

“Gatekeeper awards” from Common Good

Common Good, the advocacy group chaired by author Philip K. Howard (The Death of Common Sense, The Collapse of the Common Good) and whose motto is “Reforming America’s Lawsuit Culture”, on Apr. 8 announced its first “Gatekeeper Awards” honoring judges who throw out lawsuits that would better never have been filed. Among the cases praised: a Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion excluding scientific testimony to the effect that Doritos, the snack food, is intrinsically unsafe in texture; a Virginia high court ruling upholding assumption of risk in the case of a baseball spectator hit by a ball; a Third Circuit decision holding that a “public school third-grader cannot sue for being prevented from soliciting classmates’ signatures for a petition opposing a voluntary class trip to the circus”; an Eighth Circuit opinion excluding punitive damages in the case of a patently accidental air crash; and the Nevada Supreme Court’s ruling (see Nov. 7) that a passenger cannot sue a homeowner over injuries sustained when a car crashed into a flowerbed.

Update: Cubs settle with rooftop owners

The Chicago Cubs have settled their longstanding dispute with owners of neighboring buildings over what the Cubs considered unlawful viewing of baseball games from the buildings’ rooftops. (See “The right not to be looked at?”, Dec. 18-19, 2002). The rooftop businesses agreed to share revenue with the team, in most cases amounting to 17 percent of their gate, as compensation for availing themselves of the disputed photons. (“Cubs reach agreement with last rooftop business”, AP/ESPN, Apr. 9). Dan Lewis comments at Armchair GM (Apr. 9).

Male cheerleaders bounced

“The male cheerleaders who carried the 80-pound Tennessee Titans flag at every game and tossed the female cheerleaders in the air won’t be doing it this fall. The Titans and the Baltimore Ravens were the last two teams in the National Football League that still featured male cheerleaders, and now the Titans have decided to drop them because of liability concerns over the stunts.” (Jim Wyatt, “Titans male cheerleaders out of a job; who’ll hoist the flag?”, The Tennessean, Apr. 17).

Update: NJ $1.5M high school basketball verdict overturned

Superior Court Judge Paulette Sapp-Peterson threw out the $1.5M jury verdict Jennifer Besler had obtained against her basketball coach Daniel Hussong and the school district (Mar. 25), saying that Besler had not proven any real damages from the coach’s yelling at her. The $100,000 verdict her father obtained for being gaveled into silence at a school board meeting stands. The Besler family and their attorneys have already promised to appeal. (Linda Stein, “Judge reverses verdict against coach”, Trenton Times, Apr. 9; Lisa Meyer, “Judge nullifies jury?s decision”, Trentonian, Apr. 9; AP, Apr. 9; Scott Frost, “Case opens coaches? eyes”, Trentonian, Apr. 9).

Update: (Linda Stein, “Coach longs for lost reputation”, Trenton Times, Apr. 10).

Update, Apr. 13: (Henry Gottlieb, “Court Bounces Cager’s Claims That Caustic Coach Did Emotional Harm”, New Jersey Law Journal, Apr. 13) (via Bashman).