Angry Parents Take School Coaches to Court

ByABC News via logo
August 5, 2003, 3:44 PM

Aug. 7 -- When his 16-year-old son didn't get the most valuable player award, Michel Croteau didn't get upset. He hired a lawyer and sued his son's youth hockey league to the tune of more than $200,000.

Croteau, from New Brunswick, Canada, said his son, Steve, had the most goals and assists in the league, and thus should have gotten the award. When he wasn't named MVP, Steve was so "humiliated" that he no longer wanted to play hockey, his father said.

The Croteaus are not alone. In the last year, parents have filed more than 200 non-injury-related sports lawsuits against coaches, leagues and school districts in the United States, according to Gil Fried, a University of New Haven professor who specializes in sports law.

Why take the coach to court? Parents of children playing sports are as litigious as anyone else, Herb Appenzeller, author of From the Gym to the Jury, told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.

"They pretty much mirror society today. Everybody feels that if they are wronged, they need compensation," Appenzeller said. "We have a lot of cases where people think their son or daughter should be on varsity, and when they are put on JV team, they sue."

A Proliferation of Lawsuits

The Butzke family sued the Comsewogue, N.Y., school district because their eighth-grade daughter was taken off the varsity high school soccer team.

The Branco family took legal action against the Washington Township, N.J., school district after their son, David, was cut from the junior varsity basketball team.

Such lawsuits have put coaches and schools under unprecedented scrutiny.

"The problem is we have had a proliferation of lawsuits. We have more today than we have ever had," Appenzeller said. "It puts coaches and athletic administrators and school officials on the defensive."

NBA Career Chances Dashed?

The Rubin family sued California's New Haven Unified School District for $1.5 million because their son got kicked off the varsity basketball team. The son said he backs his family's march to court on his behalf.