Washington Case Law Update: Schools can be Liable for Allowing Concussed Students to Participate in Sports

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Washington Case Law Update: Schools can be Liable for Allowing Concussed Students to Participate in Sports

From the desk of Thomas McCurdy: Washington’s Lystedt law requires that youth athletes who sustain concussions be immediately removed from a practice or game and prohibits their return to play until they are released by a licensed medical care provider. However, the language of the statute does not explicitly provide a cause of action to enforce these requirements. Does a youth athlete have a cause of action if he or she sustains injury because he or she is permitted to participate in a sport after sustaining a concussion? Read on to learn more.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of the death of a high school football player due to complications following a head injury, the Washington Supreme Court held that the Lystedt law implies a cause of action and allowed claims against the football player’s high school and coach to proceed. The case is a reminder to schools and coaches of the importance of carefully following the Lystedt law’s requirements with respect to head injuries to keep student athletes safe and to avoid potential liability.

Swank v. Valley Christian School et al., No. 93282-4, Washington Supreme Court (July 6, 2017)

Drew Swank (“Drew”), a student and football player at Valley Christian School (“VCS”) in Spokane Valley, Washington, sustained a head injury during a football game and was promptly removed from the game. Drew’s mother took him to see his primary care physician, Dr. Timothy Burns (“Dr. Burns”). Dr. Burns told Drew’s mother that Drew should be kept out of contact sports for the next three days and advised that if Drew experienced headaches after playing football, he would have to stay out of contact sports for a full week. Two days later, Drew’s mother called Dr. Burns’ office and told a nurse that Drew has stopped having headaches. She requested that Dr. Burns write and sign a release allowing...

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