Liability of volunteer coaches

Many of us, down through the years have served as volunteer coaches for sports teams, often with only rudimentary knowledge of the sport – such as rugby, soccer or cheerleading – perhaps because we were signed up by a spouse or because we were asked by our children or another equally ignorant parent. Michigan’s Supreme Court has recently ruled that in the event of an injury to a child – participant – a coach may be held liable for damages to the child if, as a coach, he was simply “negligent.”  The negligent standard is whether he or she acted as a person with ordinary knowledge would have done under the circumstances. With that low a standard, the potential for substantial liability – for which insurance may not be available – should be of great concern for each of us ready volunteers. We suggest that a careful review of the potential for liability is called for before agreeing to accept responsibility for the safety of the children of others.

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