Tag Archives: negligence

Former NFL linebacker sued for $15 million for tackling 16-year-old player

(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt of one of eight articles that appeared in the October issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter. Please consider subscribing to see the full article, exclusively written for CLR, and seven others like it by going here.)

By Jon Heshka, Associate Professor at Thompson Rivers University

An assistant coach for a high school football team, who played six seasons as a NFL linebacker, is being sued for $15 million along with a school district and its superintendent for injuries sustained after tackling and injuring a 16 year-old sophomore student-athlete during practice.

Ryan Fowler – who played in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans and New York Jets from 2004 to 2009 – was employed by Williamson County Board of Education, a Tennessee public school system as an assistant coach at Ravenwood High School. In the lawsuit filed on August 27, 2020 by the father of the injured player, it is alleged that during a practice in 2019 Fowler donned a helmet and football pads and during a play inexplicably ran across the field and forcefully struck the teenager (“T.H.”).

Chargers host their 2nd Annual USA Football Protection Tour…teaching kids and parents proper equipment fitting, concussion recognition, and tackling techniques.

T.H. sustained a complex concussion, missed weeks of school, experienced ongoing pain and memory loss, was unable to play football and advance his football career, and struggled academically as his standing fell from that of an “A/B” student to a “D/F” student.

It is claimed that Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) rules do not permit non-players to wear a helmet and pads and participate in football practices. A review by the author of the TSSAA regulations did not discover such a rule. Section 14 of the TSSAA Handbook does, however, note that, “Only students who are enrolled and in regular attendance at a school may participate in practice.” The complaint also alleges that Williamson County Board of Education rules do not permit coaches to wear a helmet and pads and participate in football practices. The author was also unable to discover such a rule.

Assuming the rules exist, the reason for its existence is presumably to disallow bigger men from smashing smaller boys or disallowing untrained participants from practicing. The intent is to not expose the student-athletes to unnecessary harm.

Regardless, the active participation of a former NFL linebacker who was 6’3” and weighed 250 pounds during his professional career at a high school football practice arguably increases the risks to those on the receiving end of his tackles.

Fowler was linked to a convicted steroids dealer who claims he supplied Fowler with performance-enhancing drugs before and after the 2006 season. Fowler denies ever having taken PEDs and was never suspended by the NFL.[1] The complaint alleges that Fowler was suspended without pay in 2018 for violently grabbing a student and slamming him on a table. These facts were known to the Williamson County Board of Education. The school district was aware of Fowler’s character and violent history.

Even though Fowler was fired for injuring T.H., the football head coach venerated him at an end-of-season party and a “Free Fowler” campaign involving signs posted on school property was launched, neither of which was addressed by school or district leadership. T.H. was forced to transfer to another school to avoid being harassed and tormented.

The lawsuit claims that Fowler battered T.H. and caused his injuries by intentionally committing an unpermitted, harmful and offensive act. In the alternative, it is claimed that Fowler was negligent for injuring T.H. and that the school district and its superintendent are vicariously liable for Fowler’s negligence.

The lawsuit also claims that …

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Appeals Court Affirms that University Owed No Duty to Concussed Cheerleader

(Editor’s Note: What follows is a summary of a decision involving a cheerleader and a concussion she suffered. To see the full story, subscribe to Concussion Litigation Reporter at this link – https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

A state court judge in Pennsylvania affirmed a ruling that university should not be held liable for a concussion that a college cheerleader suffered in a training camp that was required by university.

The judge reasoned that the cheerleader failed to show that the university breached a duty regarding stunt instruction and supervision at the camp, which was conducted by Universal Cheerleader Association (UCA) at another university.

In 2010, the plaintiff was an incoming freshman at the university, where she was selected as a member of the university’s cheerleading squad coached by the head coach. Prior to starting college, she attended a pre-camp for the cheerleaders run by the coach. The cheerleaders, including the coach, then attended a mandatory camp at the other university conducted by UCA.

On August 12, 2010, while at the UCA camp, the plaintiff and three other cheerleaders were practicing a new stunt called a rewind. Three individuals at the base were to propel her upward, she would perform a tuck in the air, and the base would catch her. The UCA instructors demonstrated the stunt one or two times, breaking it down into steps, according to the plaintiff. On the first attempt, the base caught the plaintiff, but she did not fully complete the stunt. She was not sure whether her coach was present for that attempt but, she did not expect her to be there observing her group. Prior to the next attempt, she asked for more spotters in addition to the UCA instructor, and UCA brought in two cheerleaders to spot. This time, the plaintiff landed on top of her bases. While they caught her body, the back of her head hit the floor. She sustained a closed head injury, concussion, cervical strain and sprain, impaired vision in her right eye, and injuries to her jaw and neck.

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Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. Sacked in Waiver/Release Decision of Interest

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

By Carla Varriale, of Havkins, Rosenfeld, Ritzert and Varriale

In a case that is of keen interest to youth sports, a California court denied recent motions by Pop Warner Little Scholars Inc. (“PWLS”) and other defendants seeking dismissal of the claims against them. In Crystal Dixon, et al v. Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., the plaintiffs’ Third Amended Complaint put forth claims for negligence, respondeat superior and violations of California’s Business and Professional Code, among others. The Third Amended Complaint also contained a claim for punitive damages. The motions for adjudication of issues were denied in part because of lingering questions about the failure to coach the injured plaintiff in proper tackling technique and whether there was a conscious disregard for his safety based on the evidence presented.  The Third Amended Complaint alleged that the injured plaintiff was rendered a quadriplegic after he attempted to tackle an opposing player using an improper head-first tackling technique which he claimed his coaches taught and instructed him to use.file000785928607

The decision is instructive for two reasons.

First, the “Parental/Guardian Permission and Waiver Agreement” (the “Waiver and Release”) failed to protect PWLS under the circumstances although it was clear, unambiguous and specifically referenced the risk of injury at issue in the Dixon case.

The Waiver and Release stated:

INTENT TO INFORM
I acknowledge that I am fully aware of the potential dangers of participation in any sport and I fully understand that participation in football, cheerleading and/or dance, and related activities may result on SERIOUS INJURIES, PARALYSIS, PERMANANET [sic] DISABILITY AND/OR DEATH to myself, my children, and/or entire family. Further, I do hereby forever discharge, waive, release, absolve, indemnify, and agree to hold harmless Pop Warner, and any and all organizers, sponsors, supervisors, administrators, officers, directors, staff, referees, participants, and persons transporting the above named participant to and from activities, from any claim arising out of any injury to myself and/or my/our child whether the result of negligence or any other cause…” (“Compendium of Exhibits,” Exhibit “D;” emphasis theirs).

The court acknowledged that under California law, to be enforceable a putative waiver or release must clearly apprise the releasor or indemnitor of the effect of the release or waiver. In fact, every possible specific act of negligence of the defendant need not be spelled out in the agreement or even discussed by the parties. It is only necessary that the act of negligence, which results in injury to the releasor, be reasonably related to the object or purpose for which the release is given.

Based on the language cited above, there was … (for the full summary, visit https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/ to subscribe)

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