Coaches' Corner*- RECENT DECISIONS

Article excerpt

Employment and Dismissal - Coaches

Basketball coach sued school board claiming wrongful termination. Coach had been reprimanded for previous incidents of verbal abuse of athletes and had been placed on probation by school board. A condition of his probation was that he was not to have any one-on-one conversations with students. Subsequently, coach violated probation and the school board decided not to renew coach's contract. Held: For the school board. School board had "just cause" for terminating coach for violation of his probation conditions. Board of Directors of Ames Comm. School Dist. v. Cullian, 745 N.W.2d 487 (Iowa 2008).

Assistant coach sued university alleging gender and race discrimination under Title VII. Assistant coach was removed from coaching duties for disciplinary reasons and denied promotion. Held: For the university. Even though assistant coach was qualified for promotion and met his burden of proving disparate treatment, he did not prove the university's reasons were a pretext for discrimination. Nicholas v. Bd. of Trustees of Univ. of Ala., 251 Fed. Appx. 637 (11th Cir. 2007).

Torts

Parent sued school and teacher for negligence. During physical education class, student was injured while using free weights when teacher was in other room. Held: For the student. There was evidence to question adequate supervision of students during class and whether injury was foreseeable by school and teacher. Thus, school and teacher could be liable. Murphy v. Fairport C. Sch. Dist., 850 N.Y.S.2d 752 (N.Y. App. Div. 4 Dept. 2008).

Student sued university and coach alleging negligence. Student was hit in face with a bat when coach, with twenty-five years experience, demonstrated a batting technique. Coach proceeded to swing while student was in range. University and coach argued that student assumed the risk. Held: For the student. Coach's behavior constituted an increased risk. Student's expectation based on experience was that the coach would ensure safety before swinging the bat. Therefore, coach and school were liable. Murphy v. Polytechnic Univ., 850 N.Y.S.2d 339 (N. Y. 2007).

Former coaches sued National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and independent scout alleging defamation. Coaches were investigated by NCAA for recruiting violations while they were employed by a university. Report published by NCAA contained inaccuracies. Independent scout was alleged to have said defamatory statement that certain coach abandoned his family. Held: For the NCAA and independent scout. Inaccuracies in NCAA report were result of clerical errors and did not indicate actual malice. Statement that coach abandoned his family was not defamatory because coach could not prove special damages and because the statement did not impute a crime of moral turpitude. Cottrell v. Natl. Collegiate Athletic Assn., 975 So. 2d 306 (Ala. 2007).

High school softball player sued school district and village for injuries incurred while playing softball. Player was injured when she chased down a fly ball over the foul line and ran into a chain link fence. Player argued that chain link fence was placed too close to the foul line and increased the risk of injuries inherent in the game. Held: For the school district and village. Since the softball player was experienced, the fence was an open and obvious risk and the player accepted that risk by playing the game on that field. Shatzkin v. Village of Croton-on-Hudson, 51 A.D.3d 903, (N. Y App. Div. 2 Dept. 2008).

Father sues city and board of education contending negligent supervision. Student was injured during a gym-class soccer match when another student kicked him in die ankle. City argued that a teacher cannot be reasonably required to prevent every act a young student might do to another. Held: For the city and school board. School cannot be held liable for every act mat another student may inure upon another. Also, the father did not establish that the injury would not have occurred either way. …