Federal Judge Dismisses Claim of Wrestler, Who Argued Coach Was Negligent

Sep 15, 2006

A federal judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has dismissed a claim brought by a wrestler, who was injured when his coach paired him with a heavier wrestler at the end of practice.
In granting summary judgment for the defendant school district, coaches and other officials, the court found that the plaintiff had “failed to pose a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether any of the individual defendants were willfully indifferent to violating Rosenberg’s constitutional rights.”
Plaintiff Steven A. Rosenberg was in the eighth grade in 2002 when he decided to join the Great Valley Junior High Wrestling team. At the time, Rosenberg weighed approximately 152 pounds. Another wrestler on the team, identified as CP, tipped the scales at approximately 240 pounds.
On December 27, 2002, toward the end of practice, Head Coach Owen Brown paired Rosenberg and CP to practice against each other. While wrestling, Rosenberg became entangled with CP and the two fell violently to the padded floor. Rosenberg shattered his right tibia and growth plate.
Rosenberg, through guardian Jean D. Patrick, sued, claiming the defendants deprived him of his Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest in his bodily integrity by having him wrestle a significantly heavier opponent. Relying on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Rosenberg named the Great Valley School District, Brown, two assistant coaches and the district’s athletic director as defendants.
Shortly thereafter, the defendants moved for summary judgment, spawning the instant opinion.
The court promptly found that Patrick did not have standing to bring the suit, since her Constitutional rights were not violated. It also dismissed the claim against the assistant coaches and the AD after finding that they “were not responsible for the pairing of the wrestlers.”
Thus, “the question becomes whether Patrick has posed an issue of material fact regarding whether Coach Brown’s conduct was in willful disregard of Rosenberg’s constitutional rights.”
“… Although Coach Brown may have known it was dangerous to pair Rosenberg and CP together to live wrestle, the evidence does not show that he was deliberately indifferent to that potential danger. Some risk of injury is inherent in all junior high wrestling.
“In this case, Rosenberg and CP were the same age, and were similarly inexperienced. They were paired together at the end of a holiday-break practice in which not all of the team’s members were present. Unlike Sciotto, in which the PIAA strictly forbid collegiate wrestlers from live wrestling with high school wrestlers, there is no rule or mandate prohibiting wrestlers of different weights from live wrestling with one another during team practices. Further, whereas in Sciotto the defendant coaches callously continued to have the collegiate wrestlers live wrestle the high schoolers despite numerous complaints and prior injuries, there is no evidence in this case that Coach Brown so acted in the face of such complaints or injuries.”
Jean D. Patrick, in her own right and on behalf of Steven A. Rosenberg, a minor v. Great Valley School District, et al.; E.D.Pa.; CIVIL ACTION NO. 04-5934; 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35346; 5/31/06


Articles in Current Issue