Feature Article - August 2010
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Risky Business

The Ins and Outs of Risk Management

By Dawn Klingensmith

Duty of Care

The legal concept "duty of care," often shortened to "duty," means there is a relationship between two parties such that one party owes the duty to exercise reasonable care to the other, said Kaneohe, Hawaii-based risk management consultant Katharine Nohr. Failure to do so could result in a negligence case in the event the owed party suffers an injury or damages. In an athletic setting, duties of care might include:

Planning for potential hazards such as weather-related emergencies
Assessing the fitness level of fitness club patrons
Providing equipment that meets applicable safety standards
Maintaining safe conditions (e.g., no trip hazards)
Providing safe transportation to and from an event
Duty to supervise
Duty to select, provide and train coaches
Duty to appropriately match athletes in competition
Duty to warn of unsafe practices (e.g., allowing football fans to tear down goalposts after a win)
Duty to warn of inherent dangers in practice and competition (e.g., helmet-to-helmet contact in football)
Duty to make sure athletes are covered by injury insurance
Duty to develop and implement an emergency response plan (e.g., when to call off a ballgame in inclement weather)
Duty to provide emergency care

According to Nohr, courts commonly will rule that there is no duty where participants have assumed the risks inherent in the activity they are engaged in and, often, the only way a person or entity will be found liable is if the injured person is able to prove that the conduct of the defendant was intentional or grossly negligent.

"More often than not, courts rule in favor of defendants where there is an allegation of simple negligence," she writes. "However, this should not in any way encourage lack of safe practices and sound risk management."