The family of an SRU student who died in 2011 during a basketball practice filed a lawsuit against SRU, former SRU nurse practitioner Laura Bateman, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on Sept 6.
According to the lawsuit, the deceased student, Jack Hill completed his Pre-Participation Physical Examination with Nurse Bateman. Hill was asked to fill out a checklist that asked if he had any medical conditions that could affect his ability to play sports. On that list were conditions known as Sickle Cell Anemia (SCA), and Sickle Cell Trait (SCT). Because Hill had never been tested before, he stated that he did not have SCA or SCT. His autopsy reviled that he was SCT positive.
The lawsuit stated,” SCT-related complications were the number one cause of student-athlete deaths during the first decade of the 21st century.”
With that being said, SCT can be detected in a blood test. The NCAA required testing for all Division I students beginning August 2010. Because SRU is a Division II school, testing was not required when Hill was got his physical.
The NCAA did not mandate SCT testing until August 2012. According to the lawsuit, the NCAA has known about the risk of SCT in athletes since at least 1975.
The lawsuit stated that on Sept 9, 2011 Hill was participating in a high intensity conditioning “insanity workout” which was intended to be a punishment for the whole team. This was reported as being the third workout that the team participated in that day. In those earlier practices Hill asked to be excused from certain portion of the workouts.
“Upon information and belief, Jack’s request to be excused from certain extremely exerting workouts from practices earlier that day was refused,” stated the lawsuit.
During the third practice of the day, Hill told the coach that he wasn’t feeling well, the lawsuit said.
Later in the practice, Hill collapsed twice. The second time, he was unresponsive and stopped breathing.
One of the coaches called the campus police.
“Instead of being provided the immediate medical attention he needed, [Hill] was left lying in the middle of the wrestling room by coaches and trainers while the remainder of the team helplessly stood by and watched, waiting for medical assistance to arrive,” stated the lawsuit.”
“Upon information and belief, a member of the coaching staff retrieved an automated external defibrillator (AED) but no member of the coaching or training staff attempted to use the AED to resuscitate [Hill],” the lawsuit continued. “Rather, a fellow student improperly attempted to use the AED on [Hill] as coaches and trainers did nothing.”
The lawsuit stated that when the officers arrived, nobody was standing near Hill and nobody was trying to perform CPR on him.
People who have SCT require special treatment when facing cardiac arrest, because Hill was untested, he was unable to receive proper resuscitation.
Hill was taken to Grove City Medical Center and was pronounced dead later that night.
The coroner stated that Hill died after a sustained period of high intensity exertional activity.
The lawsuit stated that if Hill would have been tested for SCT, he wouldn’t have died. Hill’s parents believe that SRU, Bateman, and the NCAA’s negligence directly lead to their son’s death.
According to attorney and SRU business professor Dr. John Golden, what the lawsuit said happened doesn’t necessarily have to be true. Hill’s attorney, Thomas Kline, still has to prove that what was said in the lawsuit was actually what happened.
Each of the defendants until Sept 26 to file an answer. Golden explained that these answers will most likely deny what that lawsuit said happened. It is possible for the defendants to ask for an extension, which would allow them more time to prepare their answers.
Golden stated that cases like these usually reach a settlement instead of going to trial. If a trial does happen, it will most likely take place three to four years from now because of the complexity of the case and the Allegany county court schedule.
The statute of limitations in Pa. is two years. Hill’s death was on Sept 10, 2011. If Hill’s parents would not have filed the lawsuit before Sept 10 , 2013, it would not have been able to go to court.
SRU has not made any public statements concerning the lawsuit.
“It’s university policy not to comment on pending litigation,” explained Rita Abent, the Executive Director for University Public Relations.