Supreme Court affirms case applying less exacting standard for liability arising from a failure to warn

2021 case review: Brown v. USA Taekwondo

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Plaintiffs had trained to compete in Taekwondo in the Olympics and filed suit against their former coach for sexual abuse. Plaintiffs named the US Olympic Committee and the USA Taekwondo organization for negligence for having not prevented the abuse.

Both the USOC and USAT asked that the case be dismissed for failure of the Plaintiffs to allege a sufficient “special relationship” to trigger a requirement that the organizations had a duty to affirmatively protect the Plaintiffs. The trial court agreed, and granted the dismissals.

Back in 1968, in a case entitled Rowland v. Christian, the Supreme Court held that the owner of a premises has a duty to warn a guest about possible hazards, so that they can take reasonable precautions. The Court here declined to apply all of the factors included in that case, but still held that the USAT’s relationship to the Plaintiffs and their coach was sufficiently close to create that duty.

The Defendants appealed, and the Appellate Court upheld the dismissals as to the USOC, but reversed and allowed the case to proceed against USAT. The Supreme Court upheld that decision.