HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Quasi-Professional Negligence: A New Standard of Care for Volunteer Youth Sports Coaches

Warren Cormack (affiliation not provided to SSRN), Joseph Graen (affiliation not provided to SSRN), Jennifer Novo (affiliation not provided to SSRN), Francis X. Shen (Harvard Law School), Quasi-Professional Negligence: A New Standard of Care for Volunteer Youth Sports Coaches, 20 Va. Sports & Ent. L.J. 127 (2021):

While in decades past parents could simply show up and coach, today parents are the front lines for public health efforts around nutrition, sports concussions, and disease transmission. To facilitate these new roles, parents are often required by states and leagues to undergo training. The policy goals are clear: better-informed volunteer coaches should be better equipped to keep youth athletes healthy and safe.

However, the significant increase in mandated training brings with it a complex, and as of yet unexplored, legal question: in an era of mandated training, if a youth athlete on their team is injured, to what standard of care should volunteer coaches be held?

Traditional tort law doctrine distinguishes between “ordinary negligence” and “professional negligence,” but we show in this Article that the line between professional and lay negligence is blurry in youth sports. These volunteer coaches are not transformed into medical professionals after a 90 minute training video, but because of the extra training they receive, they become more knowledgeable than other parents on the sidelines.

We argue in this Article that volunteer coaches in modern youth sports become “quasi-professionals” with regard to responding to sports concussions and should be subject to a new standard of quasi-professional negligence. We propose a flexible quasi-professional negligence standard, which considers three interrelated factors: (1) the level of training that a reasonable coach would be expected to have in the defendant’s situation; (2) mandated requirements from state youth sports concussion statutes; and (3) resources available to the coach to enact proper precautions and response.

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