The Becker Law Firm is pleased to report that partner, Romney Cullers, settled a catastrophic injury case last week for $24 Million on behalf of a college athlete who tragically suffered a sudden cardiac arrest following basketball practice.
The athlete had experienced multiple episodes of shortness of breath and chest pain during pre-season conditioning drills. The college’s athletic trainer and team physician referred the young man to a cardiology group for evaluation because they were suspicious that his episodes may have been related to a heart condition. Cardiologists then ordered standard exercise testing which did not demonstrate any abnormalities. They did not order any imaging studies, however, and as a result, failed to diagnose a rare, but treatable coronary artery anomaly. The cardiologists never considered the possibility of a coronary artery anomaly even though that condition is widely reported in sports medicine literature as the second most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes. The cardiologists attributed the young man’s shortness of breath and chest pain to “performance anxiety.” They cleared him to return to full athletic participation and suggested that he see a psychologist. Two months later, he collapsed after basketball practice from a sudden cardiac arrest triggered by the undiagnosed anomaly.
Sadly, the college’s coaching staff present at the practice were not currently trained or certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or automated external defibrillator (AED) use in violation of NCAA bylaws and national guidelines for school-based athletic programs. Because they were not properly trained, the coaches did not recognize obvious signs of sudden cardiac arrest and failed to start CPR or apply an AED. The coaches called 911 and waited for paramedics while the athlete was lying on the floor gasping for air. The athlete was in full cardiac arrest and pulseless for 8 1/2 minutes before paramedics arrived and started CPR. Paramedics were able to save the young man’s life, but he suffered anoxic brain damage from lack of blood flow to his brain during the cardiac arrest event. Once a promising athlete, he is now partially blind, has profound weakness in his extremities, cognitive deficits and profound memory loss. He requires constant supervision and care and will continue to be completely dependent on others for the rest of his life. He is twenty years old.Mr. Cullers and The Becker Law Firm brought claims on the young man’s behalf against the cardiology group and the college. During the prosecution of the case, Cullers and his team engaged experts and consultants in multiple specialties, participated in 40 depositions, completed a virtual mock trial involving 220 jurors, produced two documentary films detailing the evidence uncovered during their extensive investigation and held two separate mediations, all of which was accomplished in a period of 13 months during the pandemic. As a result of this extraordinary team effort, the injured young man’s family will now be able to provide the round-the-clock care he will require and have peace of mind in knowing that someone will always be there to care for him.