UF, FSU support appeal of wrongful death judgment against UCF in player's death

Florida and Florida State have attached their names to a brief supporting Central Florida's appeal of a record $10 million judgment in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Ereck Plancher.

The two state flagships are part of a friend of the court brief with eight other Florida universities. According to the document, those 10 schools “wish to bring their unique perspective to the issues before this Court …”

Similar to Central Florida, both Florida and Florida State have had a player die during voluntary offseason workouts.

In July, Central Florida was made to pay $10 million to Plancher's parents for the loss of their son after turning down a $4.7 million to settle the case. With court and attorney costs, Central Florida could owe as much as $14 million. The award is believed to be the largest in the history of such cases.

Plancher collapsed during a March 2008 offseason workout. It was later determined that the player died due to complications involving sickle cell trait. Since that time the NCAA has mandated testing for the trait, with exceptions. Exertional offseason workouts have become the leading killer of college football players since 2000.

"Ereck Plancher will not be compromised and the student-athlete around the country will not be compromised," said Steve Yerrid, the lead attorney for the Plancher family.

Yerrid added that if the appeal is lost, UCF could end up owing more than $15 million.

At the time of the judgment, a Central Florida spokesman said it was the insurance company's decision not to take the settlement offer. Yerrid, said the verdict would rank in the top 20 in his career. Yerrid is a noted liability attorney who won a landmark $11.4 billion settlement from the tobacco industry in 1997.

Three high-profile sickle cell cases at Missouri, Rice and Florida State were all settled for significantly less than $10 million. Florida State paid $2 million in 2004 to the family of Devaughn Darling who died in 2004. Incoming Florida freshman Eraste Autin died in July 2001 due to complications from heat stroke.

Central Florida had been arguing that sovereign immunity applied in the case which would have capped the award at $200,000. That might be what interests Florida and Florida State in the appeal process.

Legal-Dictionary.thefreedictionary.com defines an amicus brief this way: Literally, friend of the court. A person with strong interest in or views on the subject matter of an action, but not a party to the action, may petition the court for permission to file a brief, ostensibly on behalf of a party but actually to suggest a rationale consistent with its own views. Such amicus curiae briefs are commonly filed in appeals concerning matters of a broad public interest; e.g., civil rights cases.

Other Florida schools supporting the appeal are: Florida A&M, South Florida, Florida Atlantic, University of West Florida, North Florida, Florida International, Florida Gulf Coast and New College of Florida.

 
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