SAN DIEGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The law firm of Estey & Bomberger, representing three USA Taekwondo victims, is calling a California 2nd District Court of Appeal ruling a “landmark” decision that will better protect all athletes who participate in club sports overseen by the National Governing Bodies of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Southern California overturned a lower court ruling and ruled that USA Taekwondo can be held liable for the harm caused by the sexual abuse of three athletes by convicted coach Marc Gitelman. The case is Brown v. USA Taekwondo, case number B280550.
“We believe that the ruling is sending a message that all National Governing Bodies must protect athletes from sexual abuse because a very real possibility exists that a coach could be a predator,” attorney Steve Estey, the law firm of Estey & Bomberger, said.
“According to USA Swimming training documents, some experts suggest that perhaps as many as 20% of children in competitive sports are at risk of abuse or exploitation,” attorney Robert Allard, the law firm of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, said.
In 2000, California’s First District Court of Appeal ruled in Juarez vs. Boy Scouts of America that reasonable measures must be taken to protect children from sexual abuse.
“USA Taekwondo and the USOPC have used an army of lawyers to engage in scorched earth litigation tactics using loopholes in the law to traumatize sexual abuse victims,” Estey said. “The courts continue to side with victims and to hold organizations accountable for their failures to be proactive instead of reactive,” Estey added.
Attorneys Estey and Allard have a successful history of advocating for young athletes. They also represented a young soccer player in 2018 abused by her coach. In that case, the 6th District Appellate Court ruled that organizations had a legal obligation to do background checks on coaches. The single plaintiff youth soccer case settled for a record $8.2 million.
In the case of Brown v. USA Taekwondo, the ruling revives a Los Angeles County 2015 civil lawsuit filed by the three Olympic hopefuls. The lawsuit states that Gitelman molested the women from 2007 until his arrest on sexual assault charges in August 2014.