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TORT IN PHILIPPINE SPORTS: A Critique on Philippine Sports Torts: Adopting a

Standard of Care for Sports Competitions and Establishing Vicarious Liability for
Professional Coaches by Atty. Ignatius Michael D. Ingles

By: Jeane Kathleen Kimm I. Arcan, BPE-SWM

Tort, according to dictionary.law.com, is a civil wrong or wrongful act, whether intentional or


accidental, from which injury occurs to another. It includes all negligence as well as intentional
wrongs which results in harm to others. Which is why, as I have read in other articles, this is one
of the most litigated causes in courts. Whether it be accidental or deliberate, this cause is
actionable.

I often heard my mom when she was still studying in law school that many people recover a
large amount of money from damage cases. I never understood it then until I read this paper of
Atty. Ingles and it related the offense to sports.

I remember watching the recent Karate Kid which starred Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. During
the climax fight, the opponent of Jaden intentionally inflicted an injury to Jaden which nearly
caused him not to come back after the injury time out. I was thinking, the coach was actually the
one who told the player to finish off Jaden. From a watcher’s point of view, I would like to think
that the coach is really bad in teaching his wards to do something wrong just to win the trophy. I
mean, are they not tasked to teach fair play and fair game?

When my professor in Sports Law asked me to look for any book, handbook or pamphlet about
Sports Law, I honestly was desperate because I cannot find one. So I asked for help from my
mother and she searched for one. Yes! She found one, the paper of Atty. Ingles. Of course she
explained it to me and now I found the answer to my “Karate Kid” issue.

In the earlier part of the paper, the author mentioned about a game between Ateneo and San Beda
which started out as a usual game, with all the physical contact and maybe some scratches and
bruises here and there, until the star recruit of San Beda charged to bag the ball in the Ateneo
goal, sliding through to nail it but hitting the jaw of the goalee with his knee. Obviously, the
Ateneo goalee landed in the clinic and eventually the hospital for immediate operation on his
injury.

Sadly, the San Beda player was banned from playing Ateneo and in Ateneo. He took all the
grudges that went with the inflicted injury. This was his fault, people said so, as the Bedan was
known for his dirty play. He is popular for winning the game but with all the dirty tricks up in his
sleeves and with it, causing injury to other people.
According to the author, his proposal to amend the Civil Code of the Philippines is for the
inclusion of liabilities or responsibilities of the coaches when it comes to their wards or players.
The author showed some passages in the said law which are in his footnotes. According to my
mom, the law expects the people to have a certain amount of diligence or care in performing
their jobs. There are some expected levels of care that a person should perform. In fact, there are
specific mentions about owners and managers of establishments, masters of househelpers and
even teachers whose responsibilities in making sure that their wards are performing according to
acceptable standards of the society.

According to the author, the law should be amended to include coaches as well because of the
degree of the relationship between coaches and players. Often, the players would follow their
coaches more than their own parents because they believe that their coaches have their best
interests and that they have their careers as their primary considerations.

I would like to agree. As pointed out by Atty. Ingles, as explained by my mom, there is a
“vicarious” liability when it comes to the playing dispositions or attitudes of the players.
Referring again to the Karate Kid scene, the opponent of Jaden would probably not inflict as
deadly an injury as he did if it were not for his coach. It was evident that the opponent was a sour
loser but he was not one who would want to give a major injury. But because he was instructed
by the coach to do so, he did. According to my mom, the real cause of the injury was the hard
kick on the leg of Jaden. In law, it was the “proximate cause” of the injury which may also be
considered a crime.

Surely, the ways and means of playing of a specific athlete is very well known and evident to
their coaches. He knows how a specific athlete plays and thinks and moves together with his co-
players. That is why he is able to make a game plan to defeat the opposing team.

The author of the paper proposes that the coaches should also have a certain amount of liability
in game-related injuries and that the level of care should be standardized in order for the
competition organizers to protect the integrity of the players and the game itself. Sports, whether
contact or not, have some dangers attached to it and surely injuries may result.

I also remember when I was young, my Mamito would always say that basketball is not a contact
sport yet is has one of the most number of injuries. Now I somehow understood why so many
fouls are called by the referees when players hit each other on the court, whether intentional or
not. Some even end up with players fighting inside the court. Are these innocent issues or are
they intentional.

Again, citing the tort definition, it may be intentional or accidental, still there is a liability. But
the author said, there should be established some standards or norms to be followed so that
players and coaches will perform accordingly and within acceptable levels in the society. The
manner of play, not just the mechanics, should be determined by the federations or associations
for specific sports. It is understandable that games are played with a certain amount of
excitement, effort and pressure that players somehow neglect the level in which the actions
should be exerted. Also, there is assumption of risk in engaging in a specific sport. The players
and coaches should be reminded of this.

Nevertheless, it boils down to the standards which should be set in terms of the performance of
the sport. Acceptable rules of contact or engagement should be established so that when players,
teams and coached go beyond these rules and standards, they are looking forward to penalties
and punishments. My mom said torts may at times be considered a crime and should be
penalized. If players deliberately inflict harm on opposing players, I believe they should be
punished, too.

Now, the author also proposes that coaches should be held liable with the players. I agree with
this, too. As stated earlier here, the coaches know their wards better and if they are aware that
these players play dirty or that they are used to inflicting harm and they condone them, then it is
only right that they should also be held liable. According to our Civil Code, they should exercise
the diligence or care of a good father of a family with their wards. I suppose when you are a
parent, you teach your kids to become good people. So as a coach, you have to teach your
players to be good ones so they may enjoy victory warmly.

Atty. Ingles calls it vicarious liability. Looking it up from Google, vicarious liability is also
considered imputed liability, a legal concept that assigns liability to an individual who did not
actually cause the harm, but who has a specific superior legal relationship to the person who did
cause the harm. The definition actually points to the coaches since they have a higher
responsibility over the players. So even if the player caused the harm, the coaches should share
in the liability of the player. But the coaches should only be held liable after the player has been
held liable first. Thus, a coach may not be charged directly and separately without charging first
the player.

My apologies but I also agree with this. Players are concerned with winning or doing well in
their chosen discipline. Sometimes they cannot think clearly or rationally. The job of their
coaches is to assist them in thinking beyond their playing capacity. It would be totally unfair to a
player to be responsible alone and solidary to a harm or injury. Here, in this instance, coaches
would be considered conniving forces or conspirators because if they allow their players to
continue with the manner of performing, the way that they have gotten used to, I think the
coaching job is forfeited. I mean, apart from guiding the play of an athlete, a coach guides his
wards to become better people, to become humane and just, as is promoted by all sports and
discipline. If the coach allow his players to do be on their own during a game, or most especially
outside the playing court, he is not a coach in the truest sense of the word.

The Civil Code expects that people tasked to manage people should exercise the diligence of a
good father of a family, or in some cases mother of a family. IF we follow this track, coaches
should be included in the enumeration as one tasked and burdened to exercise such level of
diligence. Coaches are always seen to be familial at some level. Often, famed athletes say they
consider their coaches as their second fathers or mothers. If this is so, then the care they should
provide their players should be similar to them being their children. As parents, they would not
want to endanger their kids nor allow them to be bad elements in the society. In this context, I
believe the proposal of Atty. Ignatius Michael Ingles is sound and valid. It should be clearly
stated in the laws that coaches share in the liabilities or responsibilities of the players, whether
directly or vicariously. The safeguard that the laws provide will protect everyone from abuse of
their territories and ensure a better living environment for everyone, whether at work or at play.