Texas Plaintiffs in Concussion Lawsuit Allege Civil Rights Violation in Bid to Work Around Governmental Immunity Protections

Nov 9, 2018

A Galveston, Texas couple has sued the Santa Fe Independent School District and several school officials in the Southern District of Texas (case No. 3:18-cv-00287), alleging that they violated the civil rights of their son, leading to the debilitating concussion he suffered on the playing field.
Donna and Troy Yarbrough, who filed suit on behalf of their minor son, are seeking in excess of $5 million in damages.
“This is a critically important civil rights case concerning traumatic physical and mental injuries sustained by a male high school student,” according to the complaint. “Each year numerous children are injured across the country participating in sporting events. A number of injuries result due to a systemic culture of winning at all costs.”
The Yarbroughs, through Houston attorney Alfred Southerland, suggest that “children” like their son are ushered into arenas where they “battle for championships to the amusement of spectators” and to win championships.
The flaw, they allege, is that “in order to win championships, child athletes are subjected to training regimens that disregard their health, safety, and well-being. Drills are conducted in practice that are dangerous and are known to cause long term serious injuries while under the supervision of the coaches.”
The incident leading to the concussion occurred on Sept. 21, 2016, when the minor was at football practice. Participating in a scrimmage, he collided, helmet-to-helmet, with a much larger player.
“The coaches were yelling at (the students) to line up again, and again, and again, and to hit harder, harder, harder,” according to the lawsuit. “Indeed, the coaches encouraged, if not demanded, an aggressive and repetitive full on head to head and upper body contact.
“The coaches ran the same drill over and over resulting in continued, repetitive head to head and upper body contact. The coaches never stopped or intervened in the constant helmet to helmet contact.”
Shortly thereafter, the minor began experiencing severe headaches, and two days later was diagnosed with a concussion.
The plaintiffs contend their son currently suffers the following symptoms and conditions: second impact syndrome; traumatic brain injury; slowed motor activity; altered sleep patterns; recurrent headaches and head pain; nausea; dizziness; balance problems; impaired concentration; poor short-term memory; hypersensitivity to light and sounds; mood swings; and overall moderate brain dysfunction suggestive of bilateral diffuse axonal injury secondary to a traumatic brain injury.
Can Civil Rights Angle Pierce Governmental Immunity Protections?
In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the “defendants failed to enact … proper and adequate policies … relating to the prevention of head injuries resulting from athletic activities. This deliberate indifference to the health, safety and welfare of student athletes in failing to educate said student athletes on the causes, symptoms, and dangers of traumatic head injuries was the common policy and custom of Defendants.
Eugene Egdorf, a Houston attorney at Shrader & Associates LLP, told the Houston Chronicle that claiming a civil rights violation is a “unique strategy.
“I give them credit for coming up with a way around sovereign immunity,” said Egdorf, one of the most successful plaintiffs’ lawyers in the country when it comes to concussions . “I just don’t know that this will apply.”


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