Pennsylvania Record

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Attorney suing Lackawanna College says client lost use of arm during football tryout

By Laura Halleman | Mar 30, 2017


PHILADELPHIA - The attorney for former Lackawanna College football players who recently scored a court victory says one of his clients has lost use of his right arm forever.

On Feb. 24, the Superior Court reinstated a lawsuit filed against Lackawanna College by two of its former football players who were seriously injured while trying out for the college’s football team.

Augustus Feleccia and Justin Resch sued the college in 2012 after being injured on March 29, 2010, during a “Man Maker Drill," a full-contact exercise similar to what's commonly known as an "Oklahoma Drill," while uncertified college football staff supervised.

“The trainers involved were hired in 2009 as athletic trainers,” Andrew Motel, counsel for Feleccia and Resch, told the Pennsylvania Record. “They informed the athletic director they had failed their tests and got new titles, but not new job descriptions.”

During the drill, Feleccia suffered nerve damage to his right arm and Resch fractured one of the vertebrae in his back.

“Feleccia has no use of his right arm," Motel said. "He tore loose cervical nerve roots and he will suffer this damage forever."

Resch’s injury was not catastrophic, Motel added.

After his injury during the drill, Feleccia was told by a woman he believed to be a certified athletic trainer that he could continue participating in practice.

Lackawanna College argued Feleccia and Resch could not file a lawsuit against the school due to the fact that both players signed liability waivers to accept any physical risks of playing football, therefore nullifying their rights to sue the school.

Judge Jacqueline O. Shogan stated in the ruling: “First, the language of the waiver is not sufficiently particular and without ambiguity as to preclude liability. Although valid, the waiver’s language does not indicate that Lackawanna was being relieved of liability for its own acts of negligence.” Shogan noted that the Court had “yet to address waivers of liability in collegiate football.”

“Second, as noted above, in addition to averring negligence, [the plaintiffs] raised issues of gross negligence and recklessness," Shogan added. "Instead, the trial court discounted these allegations within a footnote that stated punitive damages do not exist as a separate claim under Pennsylvania law. We do not find such a statement dispositive of whether there were sufficient allegations of recklessness or gross negligence for purposes of the enforceability of the waiver. Indeed, we find that this omission resulted in an incomplete analysis by the trial court and, ultimately, led it to reach an incorrect conclusion."

“What happened was completely preventable,” Motel said. “I think it’s absolutely the right decision for intercollegiate sports and sports, in general."

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Organizations in this Story

Lackawanna College Superior Court of Pennsylvania