Ereck Plancher collapsed and died following offseason conditioning drills at the UCF football complex on March 18, 2008. A jury ruled the UCF Athletics Association was negligent in the 2008 wrongful death of football player Ereck Plancher and awarded his parents $10 million.
Attorneys representing UCFAA and Plancher’s family completed closing arguments Thursday afternoon. The six jurors began deliberation at about 5:30 p.m. Once the group determined UCFAA was negligent and failed to do everything possible to save Plancher’s life, it entered the amount of damages it believed should be awarded to Enock and Gisele Plancher, Ereck Plancher’s parents. The total was $5 million apiece.
Orange County medical examiner Joshua Stephany and three experts hired by the Plancher family attorneys testified Plancher died from complications of sickle cell trait.
Stephany told the jury last week extreme stress caused Plancher’s red blood cells to sickle, or warp, and quickly damaged his major organs.
Ereck had sickle cell, but coach O ‘Leary never warned Ereck of his condition.
Dr. Martin H. Steinberg, a Boston University hematologist, testified the suggestion complications from sickle cell trait caused Ereck Plancher’s death was “nuts.” Steinberg, an expert hired by the UCF Athletics Association, told the jury Wednesday afternoon there are no rigorous medical studies proving sickle cell trait can cause sudden death in athletes.
Steinberg was one of three experts hired by UCFAA who testified Plancher died from an undiagnosed heart condition and could not have been saved regardless of when athletic trainers intervened.
The allegations in this case were that the University had rules and procedures in place for athletes with Sickle Cell, and then failed to follow the very procedures they put in place. As a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer, this case reminds me of the case of Javon Camon, a football player who played in the World Indoor Football League.
Javon broke his neck and collapsed after making a tackle during a game. The Daytona Thunder(team) was supposed to have emergency procedures in place-The League required them to have the procedures in place. Yet, the team did not have any of the required procedures in place, and Javon went into cardiac arrest and died.
I watched the closing arguments from the Plancher case and was troubled by the arrogance of the defense argument. The defense argument is one that we often encounter in medical malpractice cases. The argument goes something like this: Yes we have rules, yes we failed to follow the rules-but it didn’t make any difference.
This is what is termed a causation defense. Saying the Plaintiff’s death or injuries were not caused by the defendant’s negligent conduct.
The jury clearly rejected that argument in Ereck Plancher’s case, and awarded Ereck’s parent’s a small measure of compensation for their tragic loss.