The NCAA and other defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit will pay $1.2 million in a settlement with the parents of a college football player who died in 2011 from a head injury suffered in practice.
Derek Sheely, a senior fullback at Division III Frostburg (Md.) State, died in August 2011. His parents, Ken and Kristen Sheely, alleged in their $1.6 million lawsuit filed in 2013 that their son was a victim of “second-impact syndrome” — a brain injury that occurs before a previous concussion has healed.
The settlement, announced this week, marks the first payment by the NCAA to individual plaintiffs in a brain-injury case, The Associated Press reported.
“This is a landmark settlement not just because it is the first brain-injury case that the NCAA has agreed to pay a significant amount of money to resolve, but also because the stakeholders of football are now on notice that they have an obligation to protect the health and safety of the athletes,” Kenneth McClain, attorney for the parents of Derek Sheely, said in a statement.
The other defendants in the lawsuit are Illinois-based helmet maker Kranos Corp. (which does business as Schutt Sports), Pennsylvania-based helmet retailer George L. Heider Inc. and three athletic staff members. None of the defendants, including the NCAA, admitted liability.
As part of the settlement, according to an NCAA spokeswoman, the NCAA and Frostburg State will fund a research project exploring sports head injuries and, along with the Derek Sheely Foundation, will sponsor a symposium for college athletics representatives, sports medicine professionals and others, Law360 reported.
“The family and all of the defendants have agreed to avoid a lengthy trial and resolve all claims,” the NCAA spokeswoman said in a statement, as reported by Law360.
The lawsuit was headed for trial in June, but it was stayed due to pending settlement negotiations, according to Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court records reported by Law360. In April, a judge denied the NCAA’s bid for summary judgment, finding that the NCAA could be held liable for the injury claims brought by the Sheelys, Law360 reported.
According to the lawsuit, Derek Sheely had suffered a concussion the previous season and was bleeding from the forehead in 2011. When he complained of a headache on the day he was fatally injured, an assistant coach allegedly told him to get back to practice, using a misogynistic term. Sheely lost consciousness during practice and died days later. The practice drills in which Sheely and his teammates participated were described as “extremely dangerous, intolerable and meaningless.”
“We believe that Derek’s case has set an important precedent and helped shape the national dialogue,” Ken and Kristen Sheely said in a statement. “We also believe that more must be done to protect athletes, and we will continue to make this our mission.”
The NCAA has proposed paying $70 million for concussion testing and diagnosis of current and former college athletes to settle several consolidated, concussion-related class actions, the AP reported.