Former Collegiate Field Hockey Player Appeals Ruling that Dismissed Her Concussion Lawsuit Against NCAA, American University

Sep 23, 2022

An American University (AU) field hockey player has filed a notice of appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit regarding a district court’s dismissal of her negligence claim against the school and NCAA.

While the district court did award the plaintiff, Jennifer Bradley, a $1.7 million verdict against another one of the defendants – the federal government, that was clearly not enough.

Specifically, Bradley disagreed with the district court’s finding that she failed to show the actions of the NCAA were the proximate cause of her injury and that her claim against AU was invalid because she signed an acknowledgment of risk form, effectively agreeing to hold the school harmless.

By way of background, Bradley was hit in the head during a field hockey game between AU and Richmond University in 2011. Subsequent to that hit, she allegedly began experiencing symptoms of a concussion arising from previous head injuries. Yet, she continued participating in field hockey practices and games based on the advice of the team physician, until she suffered the aforementioned blow that ended her career.

She subsequently sued the NCAA, the Patriot League, the federal government, AU, and others in Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The litigation was consolidated into federal court.

In the previous ruling, the district court held that “there is nothing of a factual nature in the record to support the plaintiff’s conclusory allegation that the NCAA did anything that was the proximate cause of her injuries.”

It also agreed with AU that “because the Acknowledgement of Risk form signed by the plaintiff applies to injuries arising from inherent risks of the sport, such as concussions, as well as the subsequent treatment of such injuries, the university (is) entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law,” Univ. Defs.’ Mem. at 20, and “concludes that the District of Columbia would apply its normal rule enforcing waivers that are clear and unambiguous,” Jaffe I, 276 F. Supp. 2d at 110. Because the waiver signed by the plaintiff “meets these criteria, the plaintiff’s claims of negligence and medical malpractice claims against the University defendants are therefore barred.”