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Cal Football Player Ted Agu's Family Sues Over Wrongful Death

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on August 06, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The family of a University of California football player who died during an offseason workout with a school trainer has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school.

The lawsuit filed by Ted Agu's family alleges "reckless and negligent behavior" by school staff in connection with Agu's death earlier this year, reports The Associated Press.

What does the family claim the school did wrong, and what will they need to prove liability in a wrongful death lawsuit?

Agu Had Sickle Cell Trait

According to the lawsuit filed in California state court, Agu died after experiencing "extreme fatigue" during a supervised team workout on February 7.

The coroner's office determined that Agu died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle that the family's lawyers allege was caused by Agu's sickle cell trait. The NCAA is required to test athletes for sickle cell trait and according to the lawsuit, Cal was aware that Agu had the trait.

Although players with sickle cell can often play without complications, they may be affected by periods of intense exercise.

According the lawsuit, Agu was was being supervised by team trainer Robert Jackson when Agu began to show signs of extreme fatigue. Jackson had previously worked at the University of Central Florida as a trainer, and was present when UCF football player Ereck Plancher died after practice drills in 2008.

Plancher, like Agu, had sickle cell trait; Plancher's family prevailed in a wrongful death lawsuit against UCF.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Wrongful death lawsuits are brought by the family or personal representative of the estate of a deceased person. They are separate from any criminal proceedings, and are meant to compensate the plaintiff for the loss of his or her loved one.

Generally, in order to prevail in a wrongful death suit, the plaintiff must prove that the death was caused by the defendant's negligence or intentional act. Among the allegations made in Agu's family's lawsuit: that the University's staff was negligent in their response to Agu's extreme fatigue symptoms, and that the staff was improperly trained to care for players with sickle cell trait.

In a statement, Cal's athletic department insisted it followed all NCAA protocols, the AP reported. The school declined to comment about Agu's medical history.

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