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
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."