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Sport Liability from Coronavirus

by Dennis R. Stout

The Coronavirus has had a tremendous impact on society in general and the sports community in particular. As we begin to re-open sporting venues, whether it be golf courses, parks, beaches or gymnasium/fitness facilities, we must remain cautious and concerned about the transmission of this deadly disease, to the participants of recreational activities.

Mandatory guidelines have been established by state public health, as well as county and local authorities to allow participation in recreational activities. This establishes a duty that must be adhered to.

Failure by the venue to follow or enforce guidelines and restrictions may constitute a breach of that duty, assuming, the participant adhered to the restrictions. Once a duty and breach of duty is established (suggesting potential liability), it becomes difficult to prove a case, as the breach of a duty must be the proximate cause of the injury/illness/sickness. It may be difficult, if not impossible to prove causation from one sporting event vs. causation at work, or at home, or at the grocery store! The issue of causation could change if multiple people become injured or infected at a specific event or location (such as the nursing home cases). Under these circumstances, causation becomes more likely. All that being said, contraction of the Coronavirus can cause serious injury, including incurring medical bills, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and as we know, death.

Establishment of cause of action for negligence: duty, breach of duty, causation and damages is one thing, but what about defenses to liability? Assumption of a known risk by the participant of the activity with full knowledge of the potential of the Coronavirus, may be the downfall of a cause of action!

Time will tell as we move on from the Coronavirus. More to come later on these issues. Stay safe, healthy, and careful as we resume our recreational activities.

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