Players involved in recreational, collegiate and professional sports assume some risks on the field. However, one young rising soccer star from South Florida alleges his team and the association was negligent when it failed to property train amateur players practicing with aggressive, veteran players.
In January 2014, plaintiff in Quetglas v. U.S. Adult Soccer Association et al., had been attending college on a soccer scholarship when he was accepted as a teammate on United Miami Football Club, a regional team for amateur adult soccer league, managed by defendants. He had little experience playing against professional-level players, and during a warm-up drill, without supervision from his coach or other staffers, he was aggressively side-tackled by a teammate. He flipped upside down, landing on his neck.
Making the situation worse, he alleges, staffers improperly moved him before emergency medical services arrived. As a result, he suffered debilitating injuries to his cervical spine, resulting in incomplete quadriplegia. He is now permanently disabled and must use a wheelchair.
But now, the insurance company that provides coverage – and indemnity – to the league in his pending case has sued both the league and the player, arguing its policy doesn’t cover the player’s injuries or indemnification because the team failed to have the player sign a pre-approved waiver.
That case, National Casualty Co. v. U.S. Adult Soccer Association et al., filed in the Florida Southern District Court, asserts the insurer, who provided up to $2 million per occurrence in coverage for player bodily injury, says it worked closely with the association to drive home the importance of the waiver. The pre-approved waiver and release form limited the liability borne by the insurer in the event of an injury.
However, the waiver signed by the player in this case was not the same one pre-approved by the insurance company. The insurer does not allege this is a result of any fraud or misrepresentation on the part of the player, but rather a failure by the team that is a breach of their contract with insurer, rendering the policy invalid.
The insurer argues that even if coverage is warranted, it will be limited to $500,000 because the soccer association failed to have participant accident insurance, as required by the agreement between the insurer and the team. Plaintiff insurer notes that while it also offered an excess insurance policy that would provide more than $2 million in coverage if warranted, that won’t kick in because the $2 million in coverage wouldn’t be used up.
Waivers, formally referred to as exculpatory clauses, have long been controversial in Florida courts because they require potential litigants to sign away legal rights to which they would otherwise be entitled. They are enforceable, provided they meet the necessary requirements. It should be noted, however, that they are to be strictly construed against the party claiming relief from liability. The Florida Supreme Court held in the 1973 case of University Plaza Shopping Center v. Stewart that such clauses can be valid and enforceable so long as the “intent is clear and unequivocally stated.”
It’s worth noting that just because a waiver cites protection from “any and all claims” doesn’t mean defendant will in fact be protected from such. The wording of these agreements matters, and that’s what the courts will be closely examining in these pending personal injury lawsuits.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
National Casualty Co. v. U.S. Adult Soccer Association et al., Oct. 29, 2015, Florida Southern District Court
Athlete Blames Soccer League for Paralysis, Aug. 10, 2015, By Monica Pais, Courthouse News Service
More Blog Entries:
Former Sorority Sister Suffers Heel Injury, Sues National Chapter for Premises Liability, Oct. 30, 2015, Fort Myers Injury Attorney Blog