An analysis of lawsuits based on student injuries in public school physical education and athletic programs in the United States from 1980 to 1984

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study was to locate, examine, classify and analyze lawsuits based on student injuries due to alleged negligence in public school physical education and athletic programs in the United States during the period of 1980 to 1984. A preliminary investigation of the American Digest System revealed appropriate case citations for this study. Each citation was used to locate the lawsuit in the respective regional reporter of the National Reporter System. Each case was thoroughly studied and reported.

The analysis of cases revealed that 21 sports-injury lawsuits in physical education and 24 in athletic programs occurred during this time period. Twenty-one lawsuits involving playground or other injuries were also examined for related information. Each case was classified and discussed according to the primary area of alleged negligence. These primary areas included standard of care, adequacy of instruction, adequacy of supervision, adequacy and safety of facilities and equipment, adequacy and safety of protective equipment and other related areas.

Of all of the cases discussed in this study, 23 were ruled in favor of the plaintiff, with 15 held for the defendant. The doctrine of governmental immunity was upheld in 28 of the cases. The legal liability of school districts and boards of education and that of physical education teachers and athletic coaches was determined from this analysis. The status of governmental immunity and current trends of the court decisions were also discussed. The study concluded with implications for the field and recommendations for further study.