KGR’s Sports and Entertainment Law Team, led by KGR Partner Bill Bock, is representing elite women’s heptathlon competitor Taliyah Brooks in a recently filed lawsuit against USA Track & Field (USATF), the national governing body for the sport of track and field in the United States.
On June 27, 2021, at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Taliyah Brooks collapsed and suffered heat-related injuries when USATF ran the heptathlon competition during the hottest part of the day on the hottest day in recorded history in Eugene, Oregon. On track temperatures that day reportedly neared 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
In advance of the seven-event heptathlon competition, athletes on the USATF Athletes’ Advisory Council petitioned USATF to move the time of the heptathlon trials to protect the safety of the athletes, but USATF denied the request. As Ms. Brooks’ lawsuit points out, not only did USATF refuse to move the competition to a time of day more protective of athlete safety, but USATF had inadequate equipment in place to protect the athletes and provide for their care, even failing to have an ambulance at the venue available to promptly transport her to the hospital. Ms. Brooks had been in second place at the end of the first day of the heptathlon, but her collapse, heat injuries, and resulting hospitalization left her unable to complete the competition and deprived her of the opportunity to represent the United States in the Olympic Games in Japan.
After the Olympic Trials when Taliyah Brooks sought assistance from USATF in getting her medical records and other records about the event, she was confronted with an indemnification provision that USATF claims she was subject to as a condition of participating in the Olympic Trials. Not only would the provision, as interpreted by USATF, prevent Taliyah Brooks from recovering for injuries caused by USATF’s own negligence but it would purportedly require her to pay USATF’s attorneys fees if she even tried to hold USATF accountable. KGR’s lawsuit seeks to have the exculpatory provision relied upon by USATF declared unconscionable and unenforceable.
Attorney Bill Bock said:
“This is an important case for the protection of the health and well-being of athletes. There is no duty more important for a sport national governing body than protecting the safety of its athletes. But, if a national governing body like USATF can avoid accountability for its negligence as a condition of entry into the U.S. Olympic Trials then any promise by USATF that it will protect its athletes is empty and unenforceable. USATF’s effort to shed its duty to protect the health and safety of its own athletes competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials is unconscionable. We are asking the court to find that USATF can be required by its athletes to hold reasonably safe Olympic Trials and National Championships, and that USATF can be sued by its member athletes for negligence if USATF fails to conduct these events safely.”
A copy of the Complaint KGR filed on behalf of Taliyah Brooks can be found here. Exhibits to the Complaint KGR filed on behalf of Taliyah Brooks can be found here: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibit D, Exhibit E, Exhibit F, Exhibit G, Exhibit H, Exhibit I, Exhibit J, Exhibit K, Exhibit L and Exhibit M.