Verdicts & Settlements

Wrestling Coach Mismatched Players, Suit Alleged

$275,000

FACTS AND ALLEGATIONS: On January 22, 2008, plaintiff, P.S., 17, a high school student, participated in a practice with his school’s wrestling team. During the course of the practice, a coach asked the 255-pound P.S. to wrestle a 275-pound, 26 year old former collegiate wrestler, V.D. V.D. performed a double leg take down of P.S., and P.S. sustained an injury to his ankle.

P.S. sued V.D. and the coach’s employers, M.H.S. and the M.P.S.D. P.S. alleged that his coach negligently asked him to wrestle an obviously bigger and more skilled wrestler, that the school and the school district were vicariously liable for the coach’s actions, and that V.D. negligently executed the take down move.

P.S.’s wrestling expert opined that, based on the size and skill levels of the opponents, it was negligent of the coach to have matched P.S. against V.D. The expert also opined that V.D. failed to safely and properly execute the wrestling move. The expert contended that, in high school wrestling, the dominant wrestler, once having the opponent in the air, must bring the opponent safely to the mat and cannot slam the wrestler on the mat.

Defense counsel contended that P.S. assumed the risk of injury by agreeing to participate in the wrestling match. He noted that P.S. had wrestled hundreds of times with V.D. prior to the accident.

Defense counsel also contended that the school properly supervised the procedure, as two coaches were present in the wrestling room at the time of the accident.

The defense’s wrestling expert opined that having V.D. wrestle with team members was not negligent; that having former college wrestlers attend practice and wrestle with the students is a common and accepted practice. He further opined that V.D. was not negligent and that the injury could have occurred with perfect technique.

INJURIES/DAMAGES: bimalleolar fracture; fracture, ankle; fracture, malleolus; internal fixation; open reduction; physical therapy; plate

P.S. sustained a bimalleolar fracture; a fracture of each of the ankle’s malleoli, which are the bony protuberances. The injury affected his left ankle. He was transported to New Island Hospital, in Bethpage, and his fracture was addressed via open reduction and the internal fixation of a plate. He subsequently underwent about six months of physical therapy that was typically rendered twice a week.

P.S. claimed that he suffers residual pain and limitations. P.S.’s expert orthopedic surgeon concluded that P.S.’s residual effects are permanent.

P.S. sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering.

Defense counsel contended that P.S. achieved a good recovery. He reported that P.S. currently plays college lacrosse.

RESULT: The jury found that the defendants were liable for the accident. V.D. was assigned 10% of the liability, and the remaining defendants were assigned a total of 90% of the liability. Prior to the scheduled start of the trial’s damages phase, the parties negotiated a settlement. The defendants’ insurer agreed to pay $275,000.