PlayBall

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Issue: What degree of care will PlayBall owe participants, and how might PlayBall minimize liability for failing to reach that standard of care under Washington law?

Brief Answer: The duty of care PlayBall will owe participants will depend on their status as student athletes, parents, volunteers, or spectators. It will be difficult for PlayBall to limit liability for negligence involving student athletes, who are minors. The liability to adult participants may be reduced if PlayBall obtains waivers releasing PlayBall from liability or if claimant assumes the risk.

Statement of Facts:

The client is a newly formed, non-profit corporation here in Washington. It is called PlayBall, Inc. It was established to provide high school students, who are either home-schooled or attend small private schools that do not have their own sports teams, with opportunities to play on teams and to compete in state-wide competitions with other high-school teams. It has not started operations yet.

The business plan, at this point, is that PlayBall will recruit volunteer coaches and players for three sports -- football, baseball and soccer. The players must be between 13 and 18 years old and must not have access to these team sports at the school they attend, nor be eligible to join a team at another school. Players, or their families, will pay a modest fee to join a team. The fee is designed to offset PlayBall’s administrative costs in organizing teams, sponsoring league competitions, training coaches and providing equipment. PlayBall will not provide transportation. Parents will do that. PlayBall will not be using school property, but will have their games and practices in public parks and facilities. PlayBall will not be joining Washingto...

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...ntiff is injured as a result of a risk inherent in the sport, the defendant has no duty and there is no negligence.” Taylor v. Baseball Club of Seattle, 130 P. 3d 835, 838 (Wash. Ct. App. 2006). As long as the risk is reasonably foreseeable, PB should be able to avoid a duty of care to spectators.

Conclusion

PB should use a combination of techniques to manage risks including waivers that warn of potential risks, parental indemnity clauses, and proper training for volunteers to ensure they meet the standard of care and shift risk where possible. These are generally cost-free methods that can reduce litigation costs by waiving the rights of one party to another for negligence claims. However, because waivers cannot bar a minor’s claim, and there is always a chance of human error, it is crucial that PB purchase insurance to cover the costs of potential liability.

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