On March 18, 2008, Ereck Plancher, a member of the University of Central Florida (“UCF”) football team, collapsed while performing off-season conditioning drills (termed “mat drills”), which consisted of agility drills, cone drills, sprints, and gassers. In the Plancher family’s lawsuit, the estate claimed the mat drills were “extremely intense” and coaches and trainers pushed student-athletes “beyond the point of exhaustion.” The estate further claimed that Ereck Plancher experienced exhaustion, dizziness, shortness of breath, and loss of balance, which concluded with his collapse. According to the estate, coaches and trainers noticed that Ereck Plancher’s condition was deteriorating, but pushed him to stand up and finish the mat drills. As a result of the foregoing conduct (among other things), the estate filed suit against UCF and the UCF Athletic Association and asserted that the defendants failed to provide adequate medical and training personnel, which breached a duty owed to student-athletes.
Over the course of the last couple of weeks, Ereck Plancher’s estate presented their case to a Florida jury. At the conclusion of deliberations the jury announced a verdict in favor of Ereck Plancher’s estate and awarded $10 million in damages. However, the jury chose not to award exemplary damages. According to published reports, the defendants intend to appeal the verdict.
An autopsy performed on Ereck Plancher revealed that he suffered from the sickle cell trait, which is an inherited condition that can cause serious problems during high-intensity workouts. Over the course of the last ten years, more than a handful of student-athletes have died as a result of complications with the sickle cell trait. Litigation in this area is becoming more and more common (as is testing for the sickle cell trait) and has historically produced multimillion dollar settlements for aggrieved families.