Lawyers: SMU Not Liable for Player's Medical Retirement

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A former women’s basketball player at Southern Methodist University has filed a lawsuit against the school, head coach Travis Mays and team doctor John Baker claiming that she was forced into medical retirement due to their negligence in treating an injury. 

The Dallas News reports that Dai’ja Thomas alleges in the suit that she was not provided proper care for a knee injury during the 2017-18 season. She never had an MRI, but did receive regular fluid drains and steroid shots. At the conclusion of that basketball season, Thomas claims she was medically disqualified by the school, after which point she had an MRI that showed significant cartilage loss and revealed a need for surgery. 

Baker retained a private attorney to defend himself, and issued a general denial in court. In addition, Baker’s lawyer claimed that Thomas’ lawsuit falls outside the statute of limitations. Meanwhile, attorneys jointly representing SMU and Mays issued their own response, mostly based on the legal belief that they cannot be sued for negligence in this case, going as far to state that the SMU Board is not an entity that can be sued. 

“The SMU Defendants would show by way of special exceptions that Plaintiff’s factual allegations of liability against the SMU Defendants, even if taken as true, do not state viable causes of action against the SMU Defendants,” lawyers for SMU and Mays wrote in their 32-page response. 

The document goes on to argue that SMU and Mays are not medical professionals, and therefore could not be held legally liable for Thomas’ claims. It also suggests that Baker “is not an employee of SMU,” which could provide additional protection for the institution if it’s found that any negligence that may have occurred was outside of SMU’s control. 

“SMU and the SMU Board cannot be vicariously liable for such medical negligence because it is not a statutory healthcare provider, nor is it regarded as a traditional healthcare provider,” the joint lawyers response document reads. 

The season in question was a tumultuous one for the Mustangs, as numerous former players alleged a mentally traumatic culture within the program, according to the Dallas News.

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