Jury Awards a High School Athlete Nearly $1 Million for Head Injuries
Recently, according to The Des Moines Register, a jury in Iowa found a high school negligent for its handling of a student athlete's head injury. In 2012, a Bedford (Iowa) High School freshman allegedly told his coach that his teammates were continuously throwing footballs at his head. He asked the other students to stop, but they did not listen. To make matters worse, the coach said he would handle it, but apparently did nothing.
Reportedly, the high school student and his family filed a civil suit against the high school in 2013, claiming that the student sadly received serious brain injuries as a result of the incident. A jury ruled that the school must pay the high school student and his family nearly $1 million in damages and medical fees. This is the largest jury award in a high school head injury case to date.
Being hit in the head with a football would be painful for most students but would not necessarily always result in a serious brain injury. However, the high school student involved in the recent case has an uncommon condition called cavernous malformation. This causes the blood vessels in the brain to function in an abnormal manner, disrupting blood flow. It is possible that this condition likely left the student more at risk for brain injury.
However, the school administration and nurse reportedly knew of the condition, but failed to inform coaches that the student was more susceptible to such serious and tragic injuries. Under a 2011 law passed in Iowa, coaches and school officials are required to remove athletes from the field at the first sign of potential head injury. Athletes cannot return until they are evaluated and cleared by a licensed medical professional. The student at issue, however, was never removed from the playing field.
Within days of being hit with the ball repeatedly, the student showed signs of significant brain trauma, including severe headaches, slurred speech, and partial paralysis. He had to be hospitalized and underwent surgery to remove a blood clot near his brainstem. The clot is believed to be directly related to the ball throwing incident and compounded by the student's continued play.
Years after the incident, the student, now 18, has still not fully recovered. He uses a wheelchair and has permanent brain damage. The jury awarded the family $140,000 in medical expenses and $850,000 in damages for pain and suffering, loss of future earnings, and loss of mind and body. The outcome of the case is said to represent a victory for anti-bullying advocates, as much of the case focused on the administration's failure to respond to bullying that left the student severely injured. It is expected that the case will have an impact on schools and students nationwide.
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