In the Sports & Entertainment industry, proper risk management prior to, during, and after each event is critical to success. As an event organizer, you want your patrons to enjoy themselves and you want them to do so safely, so you must employ a good plan, skillful execution, and thorough post-event analysis. Event management cannot be static. It must be fluid and responsive. Constantly improving and modifying your risk management practices can help prevent lawsuits or prepare you whenever one is filed. These ten tips are intended to help you think about ways in which your invitees may get injured, prevent these circumstances from occurring, and prepare you if the worst happens:
1. Schedule a meeting with local police, fire and rescue, and your private security contractor(s) before each event. There will be a lot to discuss at this meeting, so bring as much relevant information with you as you can, including the expected attendance, the total non-safety staff, your alcohol policy, etc. Plan the number of necessary police and fire/rescue staff needed, and hire the recommended number of private security staff, which should include the persons hired for crowd control management. If there is a particular area at your venue that poses a unique threat, put up a sign and make sure these personnel are aware of it. Consider this cost an investment for a safe event, not an expense for your business.
2. Meet with your janitorial staff and/or contractor. Identify your supervisor(s) for the event and make sure they are aware of your expectations. Review the location of all cleaning supplies, ways of protecting areas that have become dangerous (ex. spilled drinks), and the plan for an ongoing inspection of the premises. You may be confronted with unexpected issues, such as a snow/ice storm before an event. If this is the case and you are not equipped to handle it yourself, we recommend hiring snow/ice removal contractor(s) to prepare your premises for the volume of people you are expecting. If you are unable to handle it and contractors are unable to assist you, then you will want to strongly consider postponing/canceling the event.
3. Whenever you have a contractor on site, it is important that you take some affirmative steps when signing a contract with it. First, we recommend that you be added as an additional insured on your contractor’s insurance policy. This is an important way of protecting your company should a lawsuit ever be filed. Request that you be given a copy of the additional insured endorsement prior to the event for which they have been hired. Second, we recommend that the indemnity language in the contract be carefully reviewed. This language could prove to be important if a lawsuit is filed because, under certain circumstances, a properly phrased indemnity cause could give your contractor the obligation to reimburse you for any recovered damages and defend the lawsuit on your behalf.
4. Provide ongoing training for your staff and encourage the same for your contractors. You will want to offer extensive training to employees when they are hired and have a system for training employees on an ongoing basis throughout their employment. It may seem redundant at times, but reinforcing best practices may be the difference between preventing an injury and defending a lawsuit.
5. Emphasize a courteous attitude by your employees. Studies have shown that rude doctors are more likely to be sued than doctors with good bedside manner, regardless of the quality of the care received. We believe the same is true in most service industries, including the Sports & Entertainment industry. Make sure the employees who respond to an injured person are courteous and attentive to the needs of the injured person. Train your employees on appropriate ways of communicating with injured persons without apologizing or taking responsibility for their injury.
6. Assign one or more persons to conduct a walkthrough of your premises before the gates open. This person (or these people) should be familiar with the roles of all employees and contractors on site. Have this person inspect everything from a stocked supply closet for the janitors to proper disbursement of all security personnel. This walk-through should include a thorough inspection of the grounds for hazards. If possible, employ a system to ensure that the person or persons performing the inspection are actually looking at the entire property. Include in this person’s responsibility a brief check-in with all supervisors for your staff and your contractors’ staffs.
7. Implement and constantly evaluate your reporting system when injuries do happen. This may include a written incident report, a statement from the injured person, statements from witnesses, retaining video footage from security cameras, taking photographs, etc. It may make sense, depending on your circumstances, to hire a third-party insurance adjuster to be on site at the event to take over many of these responsibilities. If there is evidence that your staff may have been negligent, then a third-party insurance adjuster may be able to protect the evidence they gather as “work product.” The benefit of this protection is that your insurance adjuster—and possibly an attorney—can evaluate the case properly to determine whether the claim/lawsuit should be settled or whether a valid defense exists before engaging in discovery with the injured person. If you or a third-party insurance adjuster does take photographs, then we recommend maintaining copies of the original JPEG versions. These photographs retain data that could help evaluate what is depicted relevant to the time that the injury took place. You should make sure that the proper date and time are set on any digital camera.
8. Maintain records of all injuries after the event has concluded. In Maryland, typically, the statute of limitations for a negligence cause of action is three (3) years, but there are circumstances where this time period could be extended. The length of time that you choose to retain records is up to you, but we recommend a minimum of four (4) years because there could be a delay in the time a lawsuit is filed and the time you are served with the lawsuit itself. You should note that under Maryland law, the statue of limitations for injuries to children does not run until the day before they reach 21 years of age, so you should plan your document retention policies accordingly.
9. Notify your insurer immediately of major injuries and all claims. The longer your delay in reporting, the more difficult it will be to defend your interests.
10. Plan a meeting as soon as is practicable after every event, which should include a representative from each of your contractors. At the meeting, discuss what went well, what did not go well, and ways to improve your practices for the next event. Constant evaluation and modification of your practices will help keep you and your company prepared.