Carolinas Verdicts

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Student: School failed to follow concussion protocol

Amount:

$5,872,583.40

Type:

Verdict-Mixed

State:

South Carolina

Venue:

Charleston County

Court:

Charleston County, Court of Common Pleas

Injury Type(s):

head; head-headaches; head-concussion; brain-traumatic brain injury; other-unconsciousness; mental/psychological-insomnia; mental/psychological-cognition (memory, impairment), impairment (memory, impairment)

Case Type:

School; Gross Negligence; Negligence Per Se; Worker/Workplace Negligence – Negligent Training, Negligent Supervision

Case Name:

Brett Baker-Goines v. First Baptist School of Charleston, Matthew Mullins and Brittany Darling,
No. 2016CP1006500

Date:

May 18, 2018

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Brett Baker-Goines (Male, 16 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

W. Mullins McLeod Jr.;
McLeod Law Group, LLC;
Charleston,
SC,
for
Brett Baker-Goines ■ Jacqueline LaPan Edgerton;
McLeod Law Group, LLC;
Charleston,
SC,
for
Brett Baker-Goines

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Nadia Webb; PsyD; Neuropsychology; Portland,
OR called by:
W. Mullins McLeod Jr., Jacqueline LaPan Edgerton ■ Timothy Livingston; M.D.; Neurology; Concord,
NC called by:
W. Mullins McLeod Jr., Jacqueline LaPan Edgerton

Defendant(s):

Matthew Mullins, 

Brittany Darling, 

First Baptist School of Charleston

Defense Attorney(s):

Andrew S. Halio;
Halio & Halio;
Charleston,
SC,
for
Brittany Darling ■ W. James Flynn;
Goodman McGuffey LLP;
Columbia,
SC,
for
Matthew Mullins, First Baptist School of Charleston ■ Grayson M. Shephard;
Goodman McGuffey LLP;
Columbia,
SC,
for
Matthew Mullins, First Baptist School of Charleston

Facts:

On Jan. 20, 2014, plaintiff Brett Baker-Goines, 16, was playing in a basketball game. He was playing on the junior varsity boys’ basketball team for First Baptist School of Charleston. This was the first game Baker-Goines played after suffering a concussion in a basketball game on Dec. 10, 2013, when he struck his head on the gym’s floor. At the time, Baker-Goines suffered a loss of consciousness. He was later diagnosed with the concussion and was ordered to remain home from school over the winter break. During the January 20 game, Baker-Goines was struck on the head in the right frontal temporal region by another player. He was removed from the game after complaining of headaches and sensitivity to light and sound. Baker-Goines also began experiencing fatigue, nausea, vomiting, severe dizziness and difficulty in concentration and memory. He was diagnosed with a second concussion. Baker-Goines sued First Baptist School of Charleston; the basketball team’s coach, Matthew Mullins; and Brittany Darling, who provided athletic training to the sports team. The suit alleged negligence in allowing Baker-Goines to return to playing basketball when he was not physically ready to do so. Darling was dismissed on summary judgment as an improper party sued. The case proceeded to trial against the school and Mullins. Baker-Goines alleged the school was required to establish and adhere to a return-to-play protocol requiring that a student suffering a concussion be asymptomatic, both at rest and with exertion, before returning to practice/play and that the student have written clearance from his primary care provider or concussion specialist before progressing to activity. Baker-Goines alleged that the defendants allowed him to return to practice in January 2014, even though they knew he still suffered symptoms of the concussion, such as sensitivity to light and sound, especially to the notification buzzer on the basketball court, as well as headaches and fatigue with exertion. He also argued that the defendants permitted him to return to practice without being medically cleared in writing by his PCP or concussion specialist. Baker-Goines also asserted that Mullins expressed that he wanted Baker-Goines to hurry up and get better so he could return to the team as soon as possible. Baker-Goines alleged the defendants were careless, willful, wanton, reckless and grossly negligent by returning him to play before he was symptom-free from the first concussion and that allowing him to return too soon created a reasonable and foreseeable risk of his suffering a second concussion. He further alleged they were negligent per se in violating the SCISA’s return-to-play protocol. A neurology expert testifying for Baker-Goines opined that the school was negligent in deviating from the standard of care and/or in the training or supervision of Mullins with regard to the return-to-play protocol. The defense denied all of Baker-Goines’ allegations. The defense contended that Baker-Goines had asked to return to play and said he was feeling fine. The defense further contended that Baker-Goines was aware of the normal risks of playing athletic sports and that his parents’ authorization for Baker-Goines to participate in the school’s athletic program acted as a waiver and release with respect to any and all injury and/or disability.

Injury:

Baker-Goines claimed he suffered a traumatic brain injury, with cognitive impairment, headaches and loss of memory. He claimed his injuries were permanent. Baker-Goines’ neuropsychology expert opined that Baker Goines had a TBI. She argued that the fact Baker-Goines was still attending high school at the age of 19 was an indication of cognitive impairment. She opined that Baker-Goines has difficulty concentrating and suffers depression. She also opined that TBI victims have a high risk of dementia and alcohol or substance abuse. According to the expert, Baker-Goines will require future medical care that includes psychological counseling. Baker-Goines sought damages for past and future medicals and past and future pain and suffering. The defense argued that Baker-Goines did not suffer any permanent residuals.

Result:

The jury found that First Baptist School of Charleston was negligent in deviating from the standard of care and/or in the training or supervision of Mullins and that this negligence was a proximate cause of Baker-Goines’ damages. However, the jury found for Mullins on the claim of gross negligence. The jury awarded Baker-Goines $5,872,583.40 in total damages against the school.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Roger M. Young Sr.

Trial Length:

9
 days

Trial Deliberations:

3
 hours

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel and information gleaned from court documents. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.