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Tort Liability of Coaches for Injuries to Professional Athletes: Overcoming Policy and Doctrinal Barriers

27 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2008  

Timothy Davis

Wake Forest University - School of Law

Abstract

The resolution of seemingly straightforward disputes that arise in sports often require courts to invoke rules from several substantive areas of the law. The potential tort liability of coaches and their teams for injuries to professional athletes provides such an illustration. Determining the culpability of coaches requires resort not only to tort law doctrine, but also to doctrine and policy related to contract, labor, and workers compensation law. This article first provides an overview of the law regarding the tort liability of institutions for injuries to athletes and the standards of care that courts have adopted. The article suggests that the breach of any duty imposed on coaches and their teams to players would most likely be assessed according to a heightened standard of care, specifically recklessness. The article concludes, however, that even if a coach engages in conduct that falls short of the applicable standard of care, a professional athlete will have difficulty prevailing in a tort-based civil action against a coach, or by virtue of vicarious liability, the team. In this regard, the article briefly discusses the defenses that might impede a player's ability to pursue state tort claims. These defenses, which include the labor law preemption doctrine, mandatory arbitration, and workers compensation, demonstrate the convergence of different strands of law in resolving sports-related disputes.

Keywords: Sports Law

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Davis, Timothy, Tort Liability of Coaches for Injuries to Professional Athletes: Overcoming Policy and Doctrinal Barriers. University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review, Vol. 76, No. 3, 2008; Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 1146589. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1146589

Timothy Davis (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

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