Blog Entry

$10 million not enough to replace Ereck Plancher

Posted on: July 1, 2011 12:51 am
Edited on: July 1, 2011 1:23 am
 
What's a life worth? A life that could easily have been saved.

Is it worth a coach's job? His AD's? Is it worth the entire Central Florida football program? Absolutely.

Is a life worth $10 million?

No, a life is priceless, precious. But a judgment had to be made Thursday night by a six-person jury that decided that the second-largest university in the country was essentially at fault in the death of Ereck Plancher.

Three years after their son's death and two weeks into the wrongful death lawsuit over it, Enock and Gisele Plancher got "justice." A $5 million award for each doesn't replace him, but it sends a powerful message to anyone in college athletics dumb enough not to be familiar with sickle cell trait by now.

Dumb, because the first documented case occurred at Colorado more than 35 years ago. Dumb, because the NCAA recently began mandatory testing (under certain conditions). Dumb, because even with all that preventable deaths mount.

Dumb, because among the first words from a school spokesman Thursday night was "appeal." The next news out of Central Florida should be the resignation of AD Keith Tribble and coach George O'Leary. If not resignation, then firing. The $10 million represents about a third of the school's athletic budget. 

A kid died on their watch during a damn offseason drill. Everything since then has been botched, bungled and embarrassing. The $10 million award makes it a landmark case in the history of sickle cell trait legal battles. Hopefully, someone other than the Plancher jury is paying attention.


Central Florida could have gotten some cheap, legal advice by simply getting on Google. Florida State, Missouri and Rice all settled similar cases. In May, the family of an Ole Miss player filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school and NCAA. Once again, sickle cell trait is involved.
 
Instead, Central Florida took this one to the wall arguing, incredibly, that Plancher died due to a heart condition. Each side presented its own set of experts, but the moment Plancher's parents took the stand this trial was over. Their testimony was compelling, emotional, raw

Still, Central Florida pressed on. In the end, the jury needed only five hours to determine that the Central Florida Athletics Association was negligent and didn't do everything in its power to save Plancher's life. His parents got money, not justice. Maybe that was saved for future players whose coaches and trainers educate themselves because of this verdict.

Twenty-one players have died since 2000 directly due to exertional stress during non-contact drills. Sickle cell trait remains the leading killer of college football players since that year.


Oklahoma knows all about sickle trait. Its head trainer Scott Anderson is one of the leading authorities on the condition because he chooses to be. Several Sooners have played with the trait and gone on to win major awards. If you're educated and, well, care it's not that hard to deal with the sickle cell athlete. Essentially, they need to be acclimated and ease into strenuous exercise.


"I think [the verdict] was the right decision, absolutely," Anderson said. "Hopefully it will have some impact. Hopefully some people are sitting up and listening. Then again, I don't know why there hasn't been any impact with the other dead football players and the other millions of dollars paid out. It's been business as usual."


From the beginning this case had the vibe of an arrogant university diving into the deep end of the legal pool without water wings. High-powered attorney doesn't begin to describe the plaintiffs' lead counsel. Steve Yerrid is the lawyer who got a $11.4 billion settlement from the tobacco industry in 1997 while representing the state of Florida.

Yes, it might have been a good idea to settle. Now someone -- preferably more than one -- has to pay -- not with cash, but with their job.

Ten million isn't enough to bring back Ereck Plancher but it shouts to the world that sickle cell trait isn't dangerous. Ignorance to it is.


Comments

Since: Sep 29, 2007
Posted on: July 1, 2011 8:10 am
 

It takes two parties to settle

UCF did not want a trial, but once the Plancher's attorney was able to avoid Florida's $200K cap on judgments against public entities, he was never going to settle.  Plus, it's the insurance company that makes the decision to settle, not UCF.
As someone who watched a large portion of the trial online, there were major issues with Judge Evans who presided.  Do not be surprised if his handling of this trial is viewed negatively by an appellate court.  The guy even used a chess clock to time the attorneys, and then extended the plaintiff's side while refusing the same courtesy to UCF.



Since: Jul 1, 2011
Posted on: July 1, 2011 7:43 am
 

$10 million not enough to replace Ereck Plancher

Mr. Dodd is either ignorant of or completely ignoring the fact that the Plancher family attorney acknowledged in post-trial comments that the Planchers turned down a settlement offer.  This was a tragedy that should not have happened. UCF and all universities/colleges with football programs have some important lessons to learn here as the Oklahoma trainer suggests.  To call for the AD's and Coach's resignation over the handling of a legal issue is, however, simply missing the point.



Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: July 1, 2011 6:37 am
 

Another typo with no editing...oops

"Why on earth are kids with the sickle cell trait GIVEN scholarships, etc..."

Oh, well. 



Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: July 1, 2011 6:35 am
 

$10 million not enough to replace Ereck Plancher

Why are kids with the sickle cell trait give scholarships to sports that require prolonged exertion?  This is one gigantic medical error.  One of the fundamentals of preventing medical errors is to fix the system instead of scapegoating the individuals involved.  There is a really simple answer here: simply put a test for the trait in the standard physical examination.  Anyone who has it flunks the physical, period: no ifs, ands, or buts.  It simply isn't worth risking a kid's life to let him play.
 
For the inevitable lawsuits that would happen in such a case for "profiling" or "violating someone's rights," a sickle cell trait scholarship fund could be set up using a fifty-cent ticket surcharge on every NCAA football or basketball game.  



Since: Feb 11, 2009
Posted on: July 1, 2011 4:01 am
 

$10 million not enough to replace Ereck Plancher

Wrongful death suits are so very often not about the money, but about forcing someone. somewhere in the chain of responsibility to step up and take the blame for something that shouldn't have happened.  I speak from experience.  My brother died as the result of a infection he contracted following major surgery.  An investgation into the matter revealed that the rehab facility which had charge of my brother did not take the necessary actions needed to keep the wound site clean.  In depositions, even the facility's personnel directly responsible for caring for the wound admitted that they were negligent and haphazard at best in caring for my brother until it was too late.  Just before the set date trial date, the rehab facility decided to settle the suit with my parents.  For my parents, if it had been about the money only, this would have been a hollow victory.  But my father was never out to get a check.  To him, what made the whole thing worth it was the fact that there was fault, true negligence, and someone owned up to it.  UCF apparently wasn't smart enough to do this in the Erech Plancher case.  If they had been, chances are that they would have avoided the fallout that is about to hit them.  Even if they were to win on appeal, they now have a certain reputation, and unless someone somewhere along the line loses his/their job(s), I would assume parents of recuits are going to keep this in their minds. 



Since: Feb 11, 2009
Posted on: July 1, 2011 4:01 am
 

$10 million not enough to replace Ereck Plancher

Wrongful death suits are so very often not about the money, but about forcing someone. somewhere in the chain of responsibility to step up and take the blame for something that shouldn't have happened.  I speak from experience.  My brother died as the result of a infection he contracted following major surgery.  An investgation into the matter revealed that the rehab facility which had charge of my brother did not take the necessary actions needed to keep the wound site clean.  In depositions, even the facility's personnel directly responsible for caring for the wound admitted that they were negligent and haphazard at best in caring for my brother until it was too late.  Just before the set date trial date, the rehab facility decided to settle the suit with my parents.  For my parents, if it had been about the money only, this would have been a hollow victory.  But my father was never out to get a check.  To him, what made the whole thing worth it was the fact that there was fault, true negligence, and someone owned up to it.  UCF apparently wasn't smart enough to do this in the Erech Plancher case.  If they had been, chances are that they would have avoided the fallout that is about to hit them.  Even if they were to win on appeal, they now have a certain reputation, and unless someone somewhere along the line loses his/their job(s), I would assume parents of recuits are going to keep this in their minds. 



Since: Feb 5, 2008
Posted on: July 1, 2011 3:09 am
 

$10 million not enough to replace Ereck Plancher

What will happen with Notre Dame, not sickness related just negligence???



Since: Mar 12, 2007
Posted on: July 1, 2011 2:16 am
 

$10 million not enough to replace Ereck Plancher

Dodd, the thing about it is that George O'Leary isn't the one making the decision to appeal. That seems to be lost on you. Fire the AD, the head of the Board of Trustees or whatever bone head decided to take this to court, but don't fire the football coach because of something like this.



Since: Feb 8, 2008
Posted on: July 1, 2011 1:18 am
 

$10 million not enough to replace Ereck Plancher

MJ:
Because, in the end, those schools admitted some kind of guilt, even if it was some sort of legaled-up remorse. At the least they decided that the cost of settling was less than letting the issue go to trial. I knew the moment the Planchers testified that this thing was over. The death happened on the watch of O'Leary and Tribble. They're the ones responsible. They're the ones not admitting guilt. They're the ones now appealing.

Why didn't Bowden, Pinkel and Graham get fired? Maybe they should have. But this is a landmark case that is costing UCF a third of its athletic budget.

dd 



Since: Dec 24, 2006
Posted on: July 1, 2011 1:07 am
 

$10 million -- the fault of the school's board

Florida State, Missouri and Rice all settled similar cases.

Which probably means that the culpability of the coaches and athletic departments at Florida State, Missouri, and Rice was just as much as those at Central Florida.  The only difference is that the board of trustees at UCF either foolishly decided to take the case to the wall instead of settle it, or they were very poorly advised, or both.  The verdict, rather than settlement, is because of that, not because of the actions of the coaches and athletic department at UCF.

Bobby Bowden didn't get fired at Florida State when this happened on his watch.  Gary Pinkel didn't get fired at Missouri, either. 

Todd Graham, who was the head coach at Rice at the time of the Rice sickle-cell tragedy, not only didn't get fired, but he twice moved to higher paying jobs, and he's now raking in about $2 million a year as the head coach at Pitt.

So tell us, Mr. Dodd, why do you think all of those people, who suffered no adverse consequences, are less culpable than George O'Leary and others at UCF?


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