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January 26, 2021

Can a Coach Sue a Parent for Defamation?

Jason and Meredith were shocked, deeply saddened and angry to learn that their son had been  abused by his lacrosse coach for several months. The parents reported the abuse to the  sporting organization and waited for a response. When no response was provided or action  taken to protect their son and other young boys, Jason and Meredith began their own  investigation.  

The coach eventually found out about Jason and Meredith’s inquiries and immediately grew  hostile. The coach hired an attorney. The attorney sent Jason and Meredith a letter promising  to sue the parents for slander if they continued to investigate or allege their son suffered  abuse. 

The parents felt stuck and silenced. Jason and Meredith were at a loss. They wondered if they  could actually be sued for telling the truth about their son’s abuse.

What is Defamation?

Defamation: If you disclose an intentionally reckless false statement, you can be sued. The  basis of a lawsuit for defamation can be for either slander or libel. In either case, the coach will  claim you made false claims. The act of publishing or disclosing false information with the intent  of harming another person will cause you to run afoul of the law. 

However, if you are disclosing truthful information; the truth is your defense, and the coach will  not prevail in a lawsuit against you.  

Parents who are investigating the abuse of their child athlete should take the following steps to  limit their liability and avoid being sued:

  1. Ensure that all statements you write, speak or publish are the TRUTH. Truth is a  powerful defense when you are accused of slanderous or libel statements.
  2. Do not make, utter, write or publish any statement with a malicious intent. Do not seek to intentionally harm another person.
  3. Do not recklessly speak, write or circulate statements that you know are false.

Responding to defamation lawsuit

An abusive coach that is bent on keeping you and your child silent will use every tool, including the legal system to achieve that objective. However, if your allegations of abuse are truthful, a lawsuit for slander or libel will fail.

So what should You do if a Coach threatens You with a Lawsuit?

You cannot totally eliminate the legal risk of being sued by an ill-advised or vengeful coach. Coming to terms with abuse will cause your emotions to spin as you struggle with this new reality. And in that struggle, you will be compelled to speak with others or even find online supporters.

Remember, the best way to find a path forward after learning of your child’s abuse is to speak confidentially to only trusted individuals.

If this information was useful, share it with your friends and family. If you need any further guidance, contact Judie Saunders at (212) 709-8141 or judie@jsaunderslawfirm.com.

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