Injured Student Athletes: What Legal Recourse Do They Have in California?


In September 2012, a 19-year-old North Hollywood High School student was awarded $2.4 million in arbitration proceedings against the Los Angeles Unified School District in California. The school district is required to pay this money to the student, Johnny Rider, who broke his neck while participating in a running back drill in July of 2008. Rider and the other students were participating in what was later described as an “unauthorized and unsupervised” tryout and were not provided with any protective equipment by the school.

“The laws in California provide students who have been injured due to the negligence of their schools with recourse,” explained personal injury lawyer James Ballidis, “and, in many cases, they may obtain compensation for the expense of their recoveries.”

Rider’s $2.4 million award is intended to compensate him for all medical care costs he has incurred and will incur in the future. The award is also intended to compensate him for pain and suffering, as well as for future lost earnings. Rider’s hope, prior to the accident, had been to be a running back for the University of Southern California (USC) and to go on to play professional football. Rider’s attorney indicated that he hoped the case would send a strong message to schools, coaches and parents about the importance of protective gear.

This is a message that may be sorely needed, especially in competitive college programs like those at USC. In fact, in August of 2012, USC was named as defendant in its own lawsuit arising out of a sports-related injury. This injury occurred when a 22-year-old defense lineman on the team, Armond Armstead, suffered a heart attack, allegedly ruining his chances to play in the NFL. According to Armstead’s lawsuit, the heart attack was brought on by more than 10 injections administered to him by the USC health center.

Armstead was administered the injections, which included Torodol and other anti-inflammatory drugs, in amounts that exceeded the recommended doses and was, in fact, given the injections twice a day on some occasions. Armstead indicates that the injections were mandatory, not something he requested, and were given to get him back on the field. He claims he was not warned of the side effects and that his subsequent heart attack caused him to miss the 2011 season. This, coupled with USC’s refusal to allow him to participate in spring pro day on campus, allegedly ruined his chances at playing professional football.

The injuries suffered by Rider and Armstead are making headlines because of the litigation they gave rise to, but they are far from the only sports injuries students suffer each year.

Fortunately, California law protects the rights of students who have been injured as a result of a school’s negligence. When a school contributes to causing injuries and is considered negligent or culpable, then the school can be sued and held financially responsible for losses, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and other damage. These negligence laws are the body of laws under which Rider was able to take action and recover his $2.4 million settlement and are the laws that Armstead is relying on in filing his suit.

Additional articles on this and other subjects relevant to the civil claims process are available to the public free of charge through our office’s Preferred Friends and Clients Program.

If you would like to request one of these free resources, or to speak with a California personal injury lawyer, feel free to call 1-888-834 5055.

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