Hagens Berman has filed a personal injury lawsuit against Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., the organization that runs Pop Warner Football programs across the U.S., on behalf of former Pop Warner player Donnovan Hill and his mother Crystal Dixon.
The suit claims that Pop Warner, its affiliates and Hill’s coaches were grossly negligent in protecting his safety, resulting in a catastrophic injury during a game that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Hill was injured on Nov. 6, 2011, during a championship game in Laguna Hills, California. The lawsuit claims that during the third quarter while on defense, Hill tackled the other team’s ball carrier with his head down. After contact was made, Hill’s body allegedly went limp, and as he was rushed to the emergency room, he informed those around him he could not feel his legs.
Doctors at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center later determined that Hill suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury, resulting in quadriplegia, including paralysis from the neck down.
The lawsuit, filed on Nov. 5, 2013, in the Superior Court of California, alleges that Hill was instructed by his coaches to tackle opposing players by leading with his head, a practice known as “face tackling.” Pop Warner’s rules prohibit the technique, according to the complaint, as do other major professional and amateur football organizations.
The complaint also pursues claims on behalf of a proposed class of consumers of Pop Warner programs in California. The class allegations brought by Plaintiff Crystal Dixon on behalf of herself and all other similarly situated individuals arises out of representations made by Defendants Pop Warner, Little Scholars Inc., Orange Empire Conference Inc. and Lakewood Pop Warner about the safety of their football programs and the certification of their coaches.
In a variety of uniform, standardized consumer-directed communications, Defendant Pop Warner Entities represented to consumers that their football programs are safe, the Pop Warner rules are enforced, the respective directors and officers focus on safety and intelligent supervision and the coaches are extensively trained as well as certified through a Pop Warner-mandated and provided certification course. These representations are false, deceptive, and misleading in that Defendants’ safety and tackling rules are not enforced, the football programs are unsupervised, and the football coaches are not trained or certified where required or to the extent purported by Defendants.
The suit claims that Hill’s coaches repeatedly saw him unsafely tackle opponents head-first in both practices and games, and did not attempt to stop him. It also claims that Hill raised safety concerns with his head coach about the issue prior to his injury, but his concerns were disregarded.
The complaint alleges that Pop Warner and its affiliate entities were also responsible for Hill’s injury for failure to properly train and supervise its coaches. According to the suit, Hill’s head coach did not complete a required coaching course, yet he was allowed to continue coaching.
Hagens Berman attorneys are asking the court to award damages, including punitive damages, to the maximum extent allowable by law.