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Coaches Sued Over Teen's Hazing, Brain Injury

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

A high school football player's parents are suing over their teenager's brain injuries, blaming his coaches for allegedly sanctioning a dangerous hazing ritual.

Head football coach Britton Devier and assistant coach Todd Bringman of Woodmore High School in Elmore, Ohio, are named in a suit brought by the parents of a 16-year-old student, The Associated Press reports. As a result of the alleged hazing, the teenager now suffers learning and memory problems, the lawsuit states.

Can some football practice horseplay be the source of a federal lawsuit?

Hazing Allegedly Led to Concussion

The teen's parents filed their lawsuit in federal court in Toledo on Monday, asserting the coaches and the Woodmore school district subjected the boy to a dangerous hazing ritual.

According to the complaint, the teen -- referred to as "D.E." in the suit, as names of minors are typically not revealed -- was required to allow other boys to hit him "as hard as they could" without attempting to defend himself.

During this incident, D.E. allegedly struck the back of his head on the ground, began vomiting, and later collapsed. After his collapse, D.E. was helped to the locker room but no ambulance was called. It wasn't until D.E. returned home that his parents took him to a local hospital, the lawsuit states.

Just like a suit for police misconduct, D.E.'s parents are suing the school and the coaches for excessive force, claiming that this practice ritual required their son to take deliberate injury in violation of his rights. The suit essentially claims that the coaches were acting under the government's authority (because Woodmore is a public school) when ordering the intentional striking of D.E., and that D.E. is entitled to recover for his injuries.

Potential Liability for Hazing

D.E.'s case is similar to a 2009 case involving a coach who required a player to be a live tackling dummy for his team. In these cases, the typical arguments about assuming the risk of injury from football go out the window. Those assumed risks include the normal bruises and injuries that come from standard play and practice -- not bizarre hazing rituals.

Participating or recklessly allowing hazing in Ohio is a crime, but according to the AP, the two coaches were not indicted for their actions in criminal court.

Despite the lack of criminal convictions, a judge or jury may still find that the coaches were liable for D.E.'s hazing injuries. Neither the coaches nor the school district's superintendent could be reached for comment by the AP.

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