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Appeals Court Overturns Earlier Ruling, Holding School in Washington State May Be Liable in Concussion Case

(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the June issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter. To see the full story, please subscribe at https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

A Washington State appeals court has held that a high school should have been more compliant with a state law pertaining to concussions after one of its football players, who suffered multiple concussions, died from those injuries.

The claim was brought by the parents of Drew Swank, who was participating in a game for New Valley Christian School (VCS) on Sept. 18, 2009 when he suffered a head injury that led to severe headaches, and ultimately his death.

Allegedly, Swank was not examined by head coach Jim Puryear, assistant coach Mike Heden, or school headmaster Derick Tabish. But the following Monday, as the headaches persisted, he went to his Coeur d’Alene doctor, Tim Burns.

The doctor diagnosed a concussion and Swank was placed on “no practice, no play” restrictions.

Three days later, Swank told his mother that the headaches were gone. When she called Burns’ office to inform the doctor of the development, the doctor allegedly told a clinic employee to lift the restrictions without a follow-up exam. Swank practiced and then played in a game that night.

Swank played poorly, which the plaintiffs claimed was consistent with a player coming off a head injury. Coach Puryear allegedly called him to the sideline, where he “grabbed him by the facemask and proceeded to violently shake his head up and down in anger,” according to the complaint. Swank went back into the game and suffered a significant hit that caused his head to allegedly whip back and forth before crashing into the field.

Swank managed to get up from the hit, but collapsed after reaching the sideline. He was then rushed to a local hospital, and airlifted to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, where he died four days later.

The parents claimed, in the lawsuit, that the school …  (To subscribe, visit https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

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