Were You Infected with COVID-19 While Attending a Sports Event?
As sports teams begin restarting their seasons and holding events in Nevada, fans who contract COVID-19 while attending games may have grounds to file claims against the teams. Many teams have liability waivers printed on tickets or emailed to season ticket holders, but these waivers might not be enough to prevent them from liability when fans contract the disease. Sports teams might rely on the idea that injuries that fans suffer while attending events because of the inherent risks of the sport are not compensable. However, as an airborne virus that can be spread by asymptomatic carriers, COVID-19 is not an inherent risk of any particular sport and is potentially deadly.
COVID-19 Liability Waivers
When people attend sporting events, they typically receive tickets with liability waivers printed on the stubs. These liability waivers commonly waive the liability of the teams for injuries that fans might suffer and also contain other terms and conditions of attendance, including the right to eject unruly fans and to use images of fans. However, some teams are now adding waivers that purport to waive their liability in cases in which fans contract COVID-19 while attending games. Since the law is still developing in this area, it is unclear whether these waivers will stand up to legal challenges in court.
Liability for Contracting COVID-19
Despite the use of liability waivers by sports teams, there are several ways that fans who contract the virus while attending games might still be able to hold the teams liable. Teams that send liability waivers to season ticket holders and third-party vendors have no guarantee that the email recipients will forward the information along to others who might use the tickets that are provided to them. Teams that fail to check temperatures, mandate masks, and ensure that social distancing is observed by fans in the stands may also be deemed to have acted with gross negligence, opening them up to liability. If the teams do not include language in the waivers that amounts to a statement by the attendees that they are not experiencing any symptoms and have not been in recent contact with someone who has contracted the virus, they might also be liable.
The idea that sports teams can escape liability because the fans assume the risk might not apply to COVID-19. While an errant foul ball at a baseball game is a known, inherent risk of attendance, contracting a potentially deadly disease is not.