In the recent case of Rodriguez v. United Sch. Dist. No. 500, the question before the Kansas Supreme Court was whether a student athlete could recover damages for the school for injuries he sustained in a crash that occurred while he was on his way to a soccer match in the back of a friend’s pickup truck.

foggymorningThe state supreme court reversed the appellate court decision and found that in fact, the school was liable to provide coverage for the student’s injuries stemming from the accident.

According to court records, student was a soccer player on the school’s team and was traveling to his first match of the season. He was seated in the bed of a pickup truck driven by a fellow student and teammate. The pickup truck was involved in a traffic collision with another vehicle.

Plaintiff was thrown from the vehicle. He sustained injury so severe, he now requires 24-7 medical care.

His mother filed a lawsuit on behalf of her son against the district, the driver of the pickup and the driver of the other vehicle.

During the course of the lawsuit, plaintiff came to understand that the association which contracts with this school and many others to provide extracurricular activities throughout the state, had an insurance policy to cover injuries suffered by student athletes during events the association organized. This included in some cases travel to and from these sporting events.

It was never disputed this particular match was a competition in line with what the policy offered. “Covered travel,” meanwhile, was defined as that which was to and from a sanctioned event that was both authorized and subject to reimbursement by the school. It was considered to start at the point of departure and end at the time of arrival.

The insurer denied coverage, arguing the school hadn’t asked for any reimbursement for the travel and it had never made any reimbursement requests for travel expenses incurred by parents or students going to and from sports events for the school.

All school expenses have to be approved by law, and there was no state law that allowed the school to pay a private person to use a private care to transport student athletes, such as those in this case.

Insurer was added as a defendant.

A bench trial ensued and was limited in scope solely to the issue of whether coverage was provided.

It was noted during this trial the student’s parents signed a permission slip that allowed him to travel with other players to and from practice or matches. Other players testified they didn’t know the school even provided a bus for students to get to the game, and no one had informed them they had that option.

District court held the insurance company should be dismissed as a defendant because the travel in this case didn’t count as “authorized” and wasn’t reimbursed by the school – the two requirements noted under the policy.

The appellate court affirmed, finding this travel did not qualify as “covered” under the policy terms.

Kansas Supreme Court justices, however, reversed, finding coverage did exist. The trip was “authorized,” the court found, on the basis his parents had signed a permission slip expressly allowing student to travel with other players, who had not been made aware of team transportation. Additionally, the travel was subject to reimbursement, even if it wasn’t actually reimbursed.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Rodriguez v. United Sch. Dist. No. 500, June 18, 2015, Kansas Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

NHTSA: Large Truck Fatalities Increase, June 9, 2015, Fort Myers Traffic Accident Lawyer Blog