Report: Lawsuit against youth soccer associations settled for $8.2 million

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 disclosure” form.

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.
7 comments about "Report: Lawsuit against youth soccer associations settled for $8.2 million".
  1. R2 Dad, August 21, 2018 at 3:37 p.m.

    I am trying to follow along to get this straight. US Youth Soccer pays $6.5M. CYSA pays $1.7M.  West Valley Youth Soccer League, which employed the coach, pays zero? It appears the League operated as a club, but has no financial responsibility? Why is that? I'm perspexed...

  2. uffe gustafsson, August 21, 2018 at 4:41 p.m.

    Yes seem very strange, I guess they sued the big organization that have money. But the club is foremost responsible for hiring and not having over site of the coaches. One would think they also been on the hook to pay out damages.

  3. s fatschel, August 21, 2018 at 5:48 p.m.

    I also wonder if whoever hired him ( I assume the DOC) was terminated. They need to have zero tolerance within the club culture and take responsibility.  Something similar happened to a club in my area.

  4. Bob Ashpole, August 21, 2018 at 6:21 p.m.

    This is not at all strange to a trial lawyer, but do you realize who actual ends up paying for this and who usually ends up getting most of the money (if there is no settlement agreement for a different amount)? Our tort system is far from perfect, but I don't know of a better alternative. 

  5. R2 Dad replied, August 22, 2018 at 12:57 a.m.

    Bob, we know who gets the shaft, but no one likes to be reminded of the usurious, monopolist practices of the tort bar.

    I've never heard anyone claim, "First thing we do is kill all the engineers/doctors/accountants."

    My suggested improvement to the tort system is we allow paralegals to handle all the civil cases so lawyers can save their important skills for critical criminal cases. Great idea, right? Paralegals can live on 10% of a settlement. Greedy lawyers insist on 30%. But I digress....

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, August 24, 2018 at 2:27 p.m.

    According to the American Bar Association, 1/3 is typical. But the client also often pays fees and expenses too. Some agreements have a sliding scale for the fee which can reach 50% if the case moves through multiple stages past the initial trial.

    Ten percent would be a very low recovery when you factor in that no fee is paid if there is no recovery and often the result is much lower than the original amount sought. Splitting $1 for instance isn't worth the bother. If the client has to pay expenses and fees even in losing cases, it is really a tough end for them.

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, August 24, 2018 at 2:29 p.m.

    Sorry that last one wasn't too clear because there are court fees and the attorney's fee too.

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