Former University of Notre Dame Football Player Sues

Oct 13, 2017

By Michael S. Carroll, PhD
Former University of Notre Dame football player, Douglas Randolph, is suing the school, Head Coach Brian Kelly, and a multitude of other defendants, alleging negligence and other related claims stemming from to a failure to disclose results of an MRI he underwent in 2015 following a football-related injury. Randolph claims that had he known the extent of his injuries, which included damage to his spine, he would have ceased his participation in football. Instead, he was cleared by team doctors and continued to play through the rest of the season, ultimately leading to possible permanent damage.
Randolph participated as a scholarship football athlete at the University of Notre Dame from 2014-2017 as a linebacker and/or defensive end. In September of 2015, Randolph was hit during practice and experienced numbness in his upper extremities. After speaking to a trainer, Randolph was pulled from practice for approximately two minutes but returned afterward, still experiencing instances of numbness with impact. The numbness continued through each impact on the field, and he was scheduled for an MRI later in the September of 2015 season. Randolph was never provided with results of the MRI, and no one discussed the results with him. Both the team trainer and team doctor told Randolph that it was safe for him to continue to play football, as his MRI had been negative for abnormalities and structural problems with his neck. Relying on such advice, Randolph continued to play in all 13 games that season. Randolph claims that throughout the season, he continued to speak to the team trainer and doctor about his worsening symptoms, including numbness in his lower extremities and occasional complete loss of muscle control in his upper extremities following impact. Both parties continued to maintain that it was safe for him to play football. During the season’s final bowl game against the Ohio State University, Randolph experienced complete numbness in all four extremities after a non-contact play while looking down the field. Despite reporting this to the team trainer and other medical staff, he was told to get back into the game and continue playing.
Following the conclusion of the season, and after experiencing worsening symptoms, Randolph underwent a second MRI from a different (non-team) doctor, and was provided with the results. Dr. Reddy diagnosed Randolph with Spinal Stenosis in his neck, a debilitating condition that has no cure but can be managed by actively avoiding certain neck positions or surgery. Randolph subsequently contacted a third physician unaffiliated with the University or team for testing with respect to nerve damage caused by his continued participation in football following his initial onset of symptoms in September of 2015. Following a series of tests, Randolph was told that he had probable permanent nerve damage in his neck as a result of his continued participation in football following his initial injuries. In February of 2016, Randolph was informed by the team doctor that he no longer was cleared to play football at the University of Notre Dame. During a visit with a neurologist for further testing and management of his symptoms, the initial MRI scans from September 2015 and January 2015 were reviewed and confirmed that he never should have been cleared for play after the initial injury. Randolph contends that due to his continued play during the 2015 season, he continued to suffer debilitating pain, constant muscle strain, daily headaches, a difficulty focusing, continued numbness and tingling in his upper and lower extremities, and difficulty with muscle control. He also contends that his continued play resulted in severe nerve damage to his left side extremities, resulting in unexpected and sudden physical pain and misery when completing everyday normal tasks.
Randolph alleges three claims in his suit against the defendants, including (a) negligence, (b) negligent misrepresentation, and (c) fraudulent concealment.
Count I: Negligence
Randolph alleges that defendants had a duty to exercise reasonable care in the supervision and dissemination of proper medical advice to him with respect to his football career and any injuries he may have experienced as a result of participation in football activities. Defendants failed to exercise ordinary care and breached this duty by failing to disclose to Randolph the serious nature of his injuries (spinal stenosis condition) revealed by the initial MRI, of which they were aware by September 2015. Furthermore, defendants encouraged continued participation in football during the 2015 season, leading to permanent injuries and disability. Randolph alleges that defendants knew, or should have known, following the September 2015 MRI, that his continued participation in football activities put him at greater risk of significant permanent injury, including paralysis. As a direct and proximate result of their negligence, Randolph suffered permanent and serious physical injuries, damages, and economic loss, and will continue to do so in the future.
Count II: Negligent Misrepresentation
Randolph alleges that defendants owed a duty to accurately and truthfully represent the risks of his continued participation in football and that they breached that duty by misrepresenting and/or failing to adequately warn him about the risks of his participation, which they knew or should have known following results from the September 2015 MRI. Their failure to do so resulted in serious and permanent, on-going injuries and pain.
Count III: Fraudulent Concealment
Randolph alleges that defendants concealed important medical information from him concerning his health by failing to disclose the results of the September 2015 MRI with him, which suggested that his continued involvement in football could and likely would result in permanent injury. Defendants had sole access of the results of the MRI and were the only ones who knew of the dangerous neck and spine condition of Randolph and should have advised him to cease participation in football immediately. Randolph alleges that this concealment was intentional and made with the intent to have Randolph rely upon them and continue playing football for the University football team. Randolph relied upon these representations and was therefore not aware of the serious nature of his injuries or the substantial risk associated with continued participation in football.
Randolph is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages. His complaint specifies that punitive damages is warranted due to defendants’ willful and wanton conduct in total disregard to his rights and safety. Defendants misled him by their false representations regarding his health and ability to safely continue to play football for the University. Furthermore, defendants knowingly withheld his medical records and test results in order to induce him to continue to play football, resulting in further and permanent injury. Randolph has requested a jury trial.
Michael S. Carroll is an Associate Professor of Sport Management at Troy University specializing in research related to sport law and risk management in sport and recreation. He has published over 30 articles and delivered over 50 presentations at professional conferences. He is currently serving as President of the Sport and Recreation Law Association. He lives in Orlando, FL.


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