Intercollegiate sports generate many millions of dollars annually for universities and colleges nationwide. Just as one example, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has a seven-year, $1 billion contract with CBS.
Colleges benefit a great deal financially from their student athletes, and this has generated a debate regarding the duty of care owed by these institutions to student athletes. Generally, colleges may be bound by general theories of negligence with regard to most students, but many student athletes have asserted - successfully - that a "special relationship" exists between them and the school, which increases the duty of care owed by the school to the student athletes.
Establishment of this "special relationship" can be critical in negligence litigation, where otherwise a school might argue it had no duty of care to someone injured. Courts have generally not been inclined to find colleges liable for injuries to students while they are attending classes. Basically, it's been assumed college students are mature adults, capable of independently looking out for their own safety. General negligence laws may apply in injuries, but it holds colleges to a lower standard with regard to protection of students. A primary exception, however, is when a special relationship exists. Essentially, this heightens the duty of care standard regarding foreseeable injuries involving student athletes.
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