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Sports Law
SUNY Buffalo Law School
Drew, Helen A. "Nellie"


Sports Law
A. Contractual & Quasi- Contractual Issues
1. Workers Comp

Workers Compensation

The basic issue is whether athletes are workers for workers compensation purposes?

The workers compensation question generally works when employees give up basic torts in exchange for a more secured, yet limited, recovery program. The employer gives up certain defenses (contributory negligence) in exchange for the assurance that damage awards will be limited.
These laws are state-based and change from state to state.
Most courts tend to literally construe workers’ compensation schemes to bring as many workers as possible under the law’s umbrella.
A workers compensation law makes the employer strictly liable for an injury to an employee that occurs in the course of employment.

1) Is the person considered an employee?

Workers Compensation categories:
1) “Nature of the Work” test
2) “Right to Control” test

Nature of Work Test- focuses on whether the worker’s efforts are inextricably linked to a significant aspect of the employer’s business. (“economic reality” test)

Right of Control Test- focus on the employer’s ability to manipulate the efforts of the worker.

2) Did the injury “arise out of” or was it “in the course of” the employment?

The court tends to look at the causal connection between the injury and the employment. The test of causation is met if it is the employment which brings the worker into the “orbit of the risk” that in fact resulted in the injury.

3) Recovery

This include medical expenses and lost earnings. Incapacity is classified as temporarily total, temporarily partial, permanently partial, or permanently total.
Recover up o 80 %…cap

Exception: intentional tort (the only way out of workers’ comp)

Waldrep v. Texas Employers Insurance Association

Facts: Waldrep signed a Letter of intent and Financial Aid Agreement with Texas Christian University to affirm his intent to attend school there and play football for them. W sustained injury to his spinal cord, left him paralyzed, while playing football for TCU. He was awarded workers comp benefits for the injury. TCU insurer appealed the award. The jury found that W failed to prove that he was an employee of TCU at the time of injury and denied the workers’ comp claim. W appealed.

Issue: Is a university football player, who receives financial aid, considered and employee of the university for workers’ comp purposes?

Holding and decision: No. A student athlete on scholarship is not an employee. There was not contract for hire. Letter of intent and financial Aid Agreement were not express contracts for hire that set forth the terms of W employment. No expectation by any of the parties that W would be an employee. Furthermore NCAA rules were the governing rules and as such schools were to make sure that student-athletes are not employees. Scholarships allowed and some money for incidental expenses.
Note: So may receive benefits from another in return for services and not become and employee.
Rule: For workers’ Compensation Purposes, a recipient of financial aid from a university does not become that university’s employee simply by agreeing to participate in a university sponsored program.

Stringer v. Minnesota Vikings Football Club, LLC

Facts: Stinger, a professional football player wit Minnesota, died of complications from heat stroke. Appellant brought a wrongful-death action against the co-employees of the deceased. The district court granted summary judgment based on co-employee immunity under workers’ comp act. Appellants appealed arguing that the respondents owed a personal duty to the deceased and were grossly negligent in breach of that duty, so there are issues of fact as to whether the immunity exemption applies.

Issue: Are there genuine issues of fact as to respondents’ personal duty, thereby precluding summary judgment, and
Are there genuine issues of fact as to respondents’ gross negligence….

Holding: Yes there was a personal duty
No gross negligence.

2. Scholarship

Taylor v. Wake Forest University

Facts: The plaintiff alleged wrongful termination of an athletic scholarship. The plaintiff was doing terrible in school so in order to become eligible to play he decided not to go to Spring practice to get his grades up, he did so and became eligible, then decided to quit football to work on his grades. His scholarship was soon after cancelled.

Wake Forrest moved for summary judgment, the court affirmed.

Issue: Whether the plaintiff acted reasonably and in good faith in refusing to participate in the football program at WFU when such participation interfered with reasonable academic progress?
Holding: No
The court rules that the plaintiff agreed to maintain his athletic eligibility both physically and academically. As long as his GPA was at the level or higher then is required by Wake Forrest, then the plainti

) Breach of Contract – The plaintiff states that his contract granted him a right to an education and a right to play basketball. The court stated that he received his education and he does not a “right” to play basketball, but rather that he “can” play basketball.

b) Negligence – He claims that by recruiting him, Drake has taken on a duty to provide an atmosphere conductive to academic achievements. He attempts to show that this is a common law tort and not a case on “educational malpractice.” The court states that they will grant summary judgment because this is an “educational malpractice” claim and they refuse to look at the way that Drake runs its academic-athletic program.

c) Negligent Misrepresentation and Fraud – Jackson must be able to show that Drake provided him with false info that he relied upon and that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care in communicating the information. The court rules the they will not dismiss on summary judgment because he was told by Drake that he would get an education and Jackson relied on this information.

d) Negligent Hiring – Jackson is saying that Drake had a duty to hire a coach that followed the NCAA rules, the court says that there is no evidence that there was any type of negligent hiring.

e) The 1981 claim – They hated the kid because he was a pain the ass, not because he was a minority.

Educational Malpractice: The reasons why you cannot claim this.

1) Lack of satisfactory standard care by which to measure an educator’s conduct.
2) The inherent uncertainty in determining the cause and nature of any damages.
3) The resulting burden that would be placed on schools in what reasonably may be predicted to be an ensuing flood of litigation.
4) That recognizing such a cause of action would force the courts blatantly to interfere with the internal operations and daily workings of an educational institution.
5) They refuse to interfere with legislatively defined standards of competency.

4. Fiduciary Duty