The San Jose Mercury News reported
that a lawsuit involving
U.S. Youth Soccer and Cal North was settled for $8.2 million.
The case involved a former youth player in the West Valley Youth Soccer League who sued the organizations after she was
sexually abused when she was 13 by a coach who had a domestic violence conviction against his wife in his past that would have disqualified him if it had been discovered.
There was no
independent background check conducted because U.S. Youth did not require criminal background checks by third parties at the time.
The coach, Emanuele Fabrizio
, was sentenced to 15
years in prison after he pleaded guilty in 2012 to the charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child and lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14.
The civil lawsuit was scheduled to
go to trial on Monday in Santa Clara County Superior Court. The settlement calls for U.S. Youth Soccer to pay $6.5 million and Cal North to pay $1.7 million.
The issue in the case was
whether U.S. Youth Soccer should have required background checks by independent firms instead of simply asking coaches to make a declaration about their criminal background on a “voluntary
The trial court initially agreed with the soccer associations, but on appeal the California Court of Appeal ruled in Doe v. United States Youth Soccer Association, Inc.
that a "special relationship" existed between
youth soccer organizations and their players and they had a legal duty to protect them from criminal conduct by third parties like coaches.
That duty, the appellate court ruled, included
exercising reasonable care in picking coaches as it was foreseeable that a soccer coach might sexually abuse a player.
It found U.S. Youth Soccer was aware of incidents of physical and
sexual abuse of its members by coaches "at a steady yearly rate of between 2 and 5 per year" and its KidSafe program was adopted in the mid-1990s because of the prevalence of sexual abuse of children
in society -- "One out of every 4 girls and one out of every 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18" -- and how pedophiles are drawn to places where there are children present.
The appellate court noted that AYSO and other Region IV state associations required criminal background checks of its volunteers and coaches and even U.S. Youth Soccer required them in its ODP
program, suggesting along with other things that it would not have been too burdensome to require criminal background checks in situations like the case at hand.