Anyone who has played sports at a competitive level shares many of the same memories—years of training, recuperating from injury, pushing the body and mind to their absolute limits along the way. Coaches and trainers push their athletes to compete, drive them to improve and urge them to exceed their expectations. Great athletes learn to follow the mentorship of their coaches and trainers, working with their teams in tightly-knit, motivated groups. Athletes are instilled with the values of loyalty, humility, and rule-following. The results of these programs are profound and often beautiful, resulting in goals and careers that can last a lifetime.
Given the discipline and commitment sports require, any breakdown in player safety, such as a violation of injury protocols, or predatory behavior by coaches, can be devastating.
At The Law Office of Scott R. Herndon, our athlete attorney help victims of negligence across California, from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Central Valley and Southern California. We take pride in obtaining rightful compensation for their case. Always treating our clients with dignity and respect, we draw upon our world-class legal knowledge to provide reliable and honest guidance when you need it most.
Failure to Adhere to Concussion, Dehydration, and Safety Protocols
Competitive athletic culture is built on refining the skills and endurance of athletes, but there are occasions when the desire to win and to push practices beyond the point of an athlete’s physical abilities, results in severe injury and tragedy. Professional teams, schools, and even club organizations must meet the standard of care in ensuring that they do not recklessly endanger the lives of their athletes.
A few examples of severe injuries caused by failures to supervise and maintain safe competition protocols include failures to:
- Adhere to safe practice techniques
- Prevent and Treat Concussions
- Monitor athletes for severe dehydration and cooling
- Maintain field and weight-training equipment
Legal action against a coach who sexually abused an athlete
In 2006, Alex Harrison had the courage to testify in court about being sexually molested by his tennis coach at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley. The case was dismissed because of a mistrial—and then 13 years later, the same coach, Normandie Burgos, was sentenced to 255 years in prison on 60 counts of child molestation committed against two other young tennis players. Harrison subsequently sued the Marin County school district for negligence—and was awarded $10 million in compensation.
Sexual abuse is a criminal offense, and penalties for sexual abuse of a minor are particularly harsh, as demonstrated by the sentence Burgos finally received. In situations like these, it is possible to bring a civil suit against a sexual abuser for emotional and psychological suffering that resulted from this violation.
As this case shows, it is also possible to hold the institution or organization that hired the coach accountable for the abuse that occurred. Burgos had worked hard to make the high school’s tennis team more competitive, something officials and parents appreciated. This sentiment may have contributed to their reluctance to accept that terrible things were happening behind closed doors after tennis practice. The two men who filed the charges in the 2019 case also brought a civil suit against the United States Tennis Association, which had hired Burgos to coach children even though he had been accused of sexual abuse in 2006.
Federal protections for student-athletes who have been abused by coaches
It has also become increasingly evident that too many young athletes are victims of sexual abuse by coaches or trainers. In 2017, Congress passed the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act, which requires officials to notify law enforcement about any reports of sexual abuse within 24 hours.
California passed a similar Safe Sport Act in 2018 to:
- Identify “mandatory reporters” within organizations where adults interact with minor athletes
- Ensure that minor athletes (under the age of 18) are never left alone with an adult
- Educate adults and minor athletes about child abuse
- Extend the window for reporting abuse charges to 10 years after the alleged incident, or 10 years after the athlete turns 18
- All abuse incidents must be reported within 24 hours
The Safe Sport Act includes a hefty mandatory financial penalty. Anyone who is convicted of sexual abuse of a youth athlete in civil court must pay minimum damages of $150,000. Will this be a disincentive to the predators who take advantage of their proximity to young people committed to sports training to cause serious harm? That’s doubtful. But the Act acknowledges the magnitude of the harm done when coaches betray the trust that is the bedrock of the sports community.
California Representing Athlete Attorneys
The Law Office of Scott R. Herndon understands the competitive drive that compels young people with athletic talents and dreams to get themselves to practice before their school day begins and then spend hours after school honing their skills and teamwork. We know how important it is to find the right team, the right coach. We also know what a shattering experience it is for young athletes and their families when they suffer serious physical injury or sexual abuse because the people and the organization they trusted neglected to safeguard their safety and security.
You can trust our firm to advocate for your legal rights and fight for a just resolution in civil court. Make an appointment for a free consultation by calling 415.360.5477 or contact us online.