Duty of Care

In order to be found negligent, a person must first have been in circumstances which created a duty of care to ensure the safety of another person(s). The principle of "duty of care" says that we must not act in ways which will create unreasonable hazards or put others in unreasonable danger. Negligence refers to only a legal duty, not the moral duty placed on an individual to respond a certain way when others need help.

The circumstances which can give rise to a duty to act responsibly towards another stem from the presence of certain relationships, for example:

  • A coach owes a duty to athletes.
  • A teacher owes a duty to students.
  • Directors of an organization owe a duty to members.
  • Program leaders owe a duty to participants.

This rule is often referred to as the "neighbour principle" – when it is clear that our conduct may cause injury to those in close proximity (our neighbours), there is a duty to avoid that conduct.

Therefore, coaches have a duty to act responsibly toward athletes, but also towards others involved in the sport activity including parents, volunteers, or other users of the facility or field, and the sport organization for whom they work or volunteer. Even spectators or officials, who lack a clear relationship with a coach, are owed a duty of care when it is reasonable to foresee that they could be affected by a coach’s careless actions.

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