Appeals Court Guts $10M Award for Football Player’s Death
An appeals court virtually erased a $10 million jury award to the family of a college football player who died during practice in 2008.
Ereck Plancher, a receiver for the University of Central Florida football team, was doing conditioning drills during an offseason workout when he collapsed and died. His family sued the UCF Athletics Association, an organization that operates the football program, for wrongful death. They argued that the athletics association didn’t follow its own procedures in treating their son, who had a sickle cell condition.
The school argued he died of a heart condition and could not have been saved.
At trial, there was testimony that the head coach, George O’Leary, removed drinking water and the trainers from the practice, and that he chewed out Plancher for not trying hard enough shortly before he collapsed and died.
Those arguments did not matter on appeal. The appeals court ruled that the school could not be held liable because of sovereign immunity, which means that the state cannot be sued for more than $200,000. Most states bar or limit lawsuits against the state government.
A trial court judge had ruled that the athletics program was not controlled by the state university, but the appeals court disagreed and slashed the $10 million to $200,000.
The Plancher family has said it will appeal.
The family’s attorney, Steve Yerrid, said he will seek review in the Florida Supreme Court “in an attempt to protect all of Florida’s intercollegiate athletes against such egregious conduct.”