University Challenges Wrongful Death Lawsuit by Football Player’s Family

University of Central Florida (UCF) is attempting to avoid liability in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a student who died during football practice, arguing that a medical waiver he signed protects the school.

During a hearing Friday in Orlando Circuit Court, attorneys for the school and the family argued the merits of medical release forms and how much they can shield a school from liability. Following partial arguments, the hearing was continued and scheduled to resume on September 18, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The case involves the death of Ereck Plancher, who was a 19 year-old freshman wide receiver for the university when he died on March 18 due to complications from sickle cell anemia brought on by the strain of a conditioning workout on campus. Plancher’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school’s board of trustees and the UCF Athletics Association.

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UCF is seeking summary judgment dismissing the case because of two medical waivers signed before Plancher’s death. However, the plaintiffs argued that the university tested Plancher before his death and discovered he had sickle cell anemia, but did not inform him.

Sickle cell anemia has been known to cause sudden death in football players in the past. Although the school maintains that they did in fact inform Plancher of his condition, the plaintiffs have deposition testimony from UCF’s head athletic trainer, who could not recall informing Plancher of his condition.

The plaintiffs also argued that Plancher did not really have a choice on whether to sign the school’s waivers. Failing to do so meant that he would have lost his scholarship at UCF and would have been forced to sit a year out before being able to play at another school due to NCAA rules.

Another pending motion before Judge Maura T. Smith is a request that the UCFAA be considered a state agency, which would limit any settlement claim against it to $200,000 unless a higher amount was approved by the state legislature.

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