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Former North Hollywood Student Receives $2.4 Million Arbitration Settlement From LAUSD PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 06 September 2012 04:51

District Admits Liability For Injuries Sustained In Unauthorized Football Tryout

MIKE TERRY/SFVS

On July 8, 2008, Johnny Rider, then a 15-year-old freshman, stood on the North Hollywood High football field for a tryout to make the varsity or junior varsity team. Like others, he dreamed of one day wearing a NFL uniform. But the tryout ended disastrously for Rider, who would break his neck in five places during a drill. There was another problem; the tryouts were unauthorized and unsupervised, and Rider and the other participants were not given any helmets, shoulder pads, or other protective gear.

Rider and his family eventually sued the Los Angeles Unified School District. On Tuesday, Sept. 4, District officials announced an arbitration award to Rider of $2.4 million. In a statement, LAUSD agreed to the binding arbitration "in order to avoid further litigation," and obtain "an independent evaluation" of Rider's damages.

"The LAUSD deeply regrets the severe injury suffered by this former student," district General Counsel David Holmquist said in the statement. "With this ruling, we hope this settlement will bring some comfort to the injured student and his family."

Rider – who had hoped to play football at the University of Southern California and then professionally – was taking part in a running back drill when the accident occurred.

According to court papers, Rider ran head first into padded bags that were held by two other students. He fractured his cervical spine in five places, and underwent a surgical procedure known as a laminectomy.

Fortunately Rider, now 19, is not paralyzed. But his attorney Browne Greene, from the Santa Monica-based law firm Greene, Broillet & Wheeler, said Rider remains in constant pain and would need more surgery.

Greene previously told reporters, "We hope that Johnny Rider's case sends a strong message to schools, coaches and parents to make sure that protective gear is always worn."

"It does not hurt to overstate the obvious – that helmets and shoulder pads play an instrumental role in preventing life altering injuries and requiring them to be worn during a tryout, practice, or an actual game should always be a priority in any physical contact sport," the attorney said.

North Hollywood officials said Principal Randall Delling was off campus for meetings on Wednesday, and could not be reached for comment.

Andrew Kasek was the head football coach at North Hollywood when the incident occurred. He left the school in 2010 and was replaced by current head coach Doug Bledsoe.

Kasek did coach at Sylmar High in 2011, but left after one year.

According to the LAUSD statement, district officials have put several corrective measures in place to try and avoid a similar situation.

John Aguirre, Los Angeles City Section assistant commissioner in charge of football, said one of those steps is now mandatory concussion training for all City coaches. The first of three seminars this academic year was held on Aug. 20 at Hollywood Bernstein High, with more than 900 coaches attending.

Aguirre added that before this, information about concussions were present during the annual preseason meetings for football coaches.

The Aug. 20 seminar "stressed awareness, management protocol, and 'return to play' protocols," Aguirre said, "plus an understanding of the dangers, especially for youths when deal with concussions or traumatic brain injuries. When you are young, the brain takes longer to heal. And a second impact syndrome or post-concussion syndrome can be more dangerous to them."

City News Service contributed to this story.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 06 September 2012 04:54