December 18, 2014

 

City News Service 

 

 

A Los Angeles judge recently rejected a motion by the national Pop Warner football organization and a local chapter to dismiss a negligence lawsuit by a teenager whose spinal injury during a 2011 game left him a quadriplegic. Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller’s ruling means that Donnovan Hill’s litigation can proceed to trial, but added that his mother’s allegation of negligent infliction of emotional distress needs to be further explained. Shaller also found that the plaintiffs may seek punitive damages against the coaches.

 

“The plaintiffs’ allegations that the coaches knew that children would get hurt while tackling as instructed is theoretically malicious or oppressive,” Shaller wrote.

 

The lawsuit was filed in November 2013 on the boy’s behalf by his mother, Crystal Dixon of Los Alamitos, who is also a plaintiff. The suit also names Pop Warner coaches and representatives. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The boy, then 13, fractured his spine on Nov, 6, 2011, during the Midget Orange Bowl championship game at Laguna Hills High School. He was a star player for the Lakewood Lancers.

 

Although fatigued, the boy’s coaches sent him back into the game as a substitute for another defensive player and he was hurt while making a head-first tackle trying to prevent an opposing player from entering the end zone, the suit states.

 

“Donnovan immediately went limp and dropped to the field, unmoving,” the suit states. “Donnovan told those gathered around him that he could not feel his legs.”

 

The boy, now 16, has minimal use of his arms and no independent movement from his upper chest down, according to the suit. Dixon suffered emotional distress from witnessing her son’s accident, the suit states. But Shaller said the lawsuit needs to explain whether Dixon knew her son was taught to tackle with his head.

 

Lawyers for Lakewood Pop Warner and the coaches argued in their court papers that the coaches were immune from liability under federal laws pertaining to volunteers. The attorneys also maintained the plaintiffs must show the coaches intended to cause injuries to the players or that their conduct was reckless.

 

“To encourage aggressive play in football is simply to encourage participants to play the game as it should be played,” the defense attorneys stated in their court papers.

Category: News



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