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How a school sports waiver can complicate liability claims

Some of our California readers may have already heard the story about the Massachusetts football player who is currently in a coma and believed to have suffered brain damage because of his involvement in the sport. This isn’t the first time his story has captured national attention, but because of the circumstances surrounding his injuries, his case could be raising questions about liability and whether his parents will be able to take legal action against the school district down the road.

The liability complications are rooted in a sports waiver the young man’s parents may have signed. As many San Francisco parents know from their own personal experiences, these sports waivers often relieve school district of any and all responsibility when it comes to sports-related injuries. Depending on the wording of the waiver, it may even preclude liability claims in the event of negligence, which would be disconcerting to any parent.

But what’s worth pointing out is that these waivers do not protect against accusations of gross negligence. Different from regular negligence, gross negligence applies when an individual deliberately or recklessly acts in a way that they know or should know can cause harm. But because the school district in this case cannot comment on the wording of the sports waiver or whether the parents signed such a waiver, it’s unclear whether the family will even have the ability to seek compensation for their son’s sports-related injuries even if negligence is a factor. If they can prove gross negligence, it’s possible that they could still have a case.

Although this story is ruled by another state’s jurisdiction and may not have the same outcome as here in California, it’s still worth noting that residents here in our state could run into similar legal complexities. And without proper help, victims and their families might not receive the outcome they may want.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Navy player’s brain injury not caused by contact,” Don Markus, March 24, 2014

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