Diane Morgan, As Provisional Administrator of the Estate of Keibreon Morgan, and In Person v. Pam Schooler, et al
Keith W. McDaniel and Heather M. Nagel obtained a defense verdict for the Union Parish School Board following a jury trial in Union Parish, Louisiana in March 2014. Plaintiffs, Diane Morgan and Reginald Bilberry, brought suit as a result of the death of their son, Keibreon Morgan. Keibreon, a sophomore at Farmerville High School, complained of pain and cramping during football practice in September of 2010. After he was pulled from the practice field and addressed, an athletic trainer called an ambulance. En route to the hospital, he lost consciousness, and he later died at the hospital. Following his death, an autopsy revealed a cardiomyopathy or an enlarged heart. His heart weighed nearly two times that of an average heart for a 15 year old.
Plaintiffs filed suit naming the Union Parish School Board; Joe Spatafora, head football coach; and Pam Schooler, former principal. In advance of trial, the trial court dismissed Joe Spatafora and Pam Schooler in their individual capacities, and the trial moved forward against the Union Parish School Board only. At trial, plaintiffs alleged that Keibreon died as a result of a heat related injury. Plaintiffs retained an expert who opined that the coaching staff and athletic trainer were negligent because they failed to remove Keibreon from the heat and into an ice bath when he first reported complaints. Plaintiffs also retained a cardiologist who opined that the Keibreon Morgan’s heart was not enlarged given his height and weight.
The school board defended the plaintiffs’ allegations with evidence demonstrating that Keibreon had undergone a conditioning program during the summer and that the team had a heat related emergency plan and hydration program in place. On the day of Keibreon’s death, coaching staff immediately removed Keibreon from the practice field, provided him water and used an athletic trainer to assess his complaints and symptoms. During the assessment, the trainer properly alerted 911 when she obtained a concerning blood pressure reading.
Defendants called the treating pathologist who testified that the autopsy showed that Keibreon Morgan died of an enlarged heart. Moreover, he explained that Keibreon showed no signs of dehydration, which would have been expected in a death caused from heat exposure. Defendants also retained a cardiologist, who testified that Keibreon suffered from an enlarged heart, which caused him to suffer an arrhythmia that went undetected by the emergency responders because they failed to put him on heart monitor.
Plaintiffs asked the jury to award general damages of $500,000. The jury found that the defendants had not caused the death of Keibreon Morgan.