‘Gross negligence?’ Pa. Supreme Court refuses to free college from lawsuit by injured football players
The state Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to free a Pennsylvania college from a lawsuit by two football players who were injured during a controversial tackling drill.
Instead, the justices sent the case of Augustus Feleccia and Justin Resch versus Lackawanna Junior College back to Lackawanna County Court so the former players can argue whether college athletic officials were grossly reckless or negligent.
A county judge initially dismissed the suit on grounds that the players signed away their right to sue the college when they joined its football program. The college appealed to the Supreme Court after a state Superior Court panel reinstated the case.
Justice Kevin M. Dougherty concluded in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion that Felieccia and Resch only waived their right to sue over harm stemming from the normal risks of football. However, Dougherty wrote, that waiver did not protect the college in cases of gross negligence and/or recklessness by its staff.
Feleccia and Resch were injured during the same practice on March 29, 2010 while engaged in an “Oklahoma Drill,” that later came under criticism during the investigation of concussion injuries among NFL players. Resch suffered a spinal injury and Feleccia sustained a shoulder injury after a woman he thought was a college athletic trainer told him he was fit to keep practicing, court filings state.
Resch and Feleccia sued the college in 2012, claiming the football staff was negligent and the school should have had certified athletic trainers available to aid and advise players who were injured. Instead, the college employed two women who had failed to gain certification as athletic trainers.
“We hold that (the college) had a duty to provide licensed athletic trainers for the purpose of rendering treatment to its student athletes…and there is a genuine issue…regarding whether (the college) breached this duty,” Dougherty wrote.