Even youth sports can be quite dangerous when they are not properly supervised or are performed on a non-regulation field. When a minor is injured as a result, his or her family might then hire a West Virginia personal injury attorney to get relief for the injuries.
This June, a case will be heard in Berkeley County Circuit Court involving a 14-year old softball player who hurt herself in 2010 after her coach allegedly forced her to slide during a drill, even though the softball player did not want to slide and had never done so before. The player ended up crushing her left ankle, tibia, and fibula, which required three surgeries to correct. Her parents, who filed the lawsuit on her behalf, alleged that not only was she forced to slide, but also that the surface of the softball diamond was “hard and unforgiving.” A physician, Dr. Benjamin Rezba, wrote that since the accident, the girl has been unable to play any sports and must rest even after walking three blocks.
Since the player’s parents filed the lawsuit against the coach, Courtni Williams, and the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Softball League, the case has taken some interesting turns. First, a scheduled witness in the case, Martinsburg High coach Calvin Anthony Russ, was arrested for delivery of heroin. Russ was going to testify that the softball field and diamond were sufficiently maintained and that Williams was qualified to teach Roberts and others to slide. Instead, Russ was arrested last July for allegedly being in a car when a police informant purchased $50 of heroin from his girlfriend. Russ was arraigned two months later on charges of delivery of heroin and conspiracy to deliver heroin. The Martinsburg-Berkeley County Softball League substituted in a local softball coach and a president of Sports and Recreational Consultants as expert witnesses.
Most recently, Williams was dismissed from the case for unspecified reasons, leaving the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Softball League as the only defendant. Williams had previously played softball at two local high schools and later at the collegiate level.
It goes without saying that teachers and coaches have a strict duty of care when it comes to their minor charges. For coaches, that includes ensuring that the venue is safe and appropriate, that there is enough staff to provide proper supervision, that the minors receive proper training, that the minors behave appropriately toward one another, and that any injured minor receives immediate care. It remains to be seen how carefully Williams and any other coach who was present complied. For instance, if they did not bother to inspect the field and diamond beforehand, then they breached their duty of care to Roberts and the other softball players. On the other hand, if they did inspect the field and diamond and thought it satisfactory, then it becomes a question of whether they were, in fact, in satisfactory condition, which is where expert witnesses come in.
If circumstances were as the palyer’s family alleges, then a duty of care was almost certainly breached. Williams should not have pressured a minor to do something objectively unsafe. If events did happen as alleged, then the player’s family is within its rights to seek “damages,” a monetary award given by a jury, for things such as pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.