A long-running high school football tragedy is finally drawing toward a resolution after parents of a permanently disabled player in Souther California settled a long running lawsuit against his school district and sports equipment manufacturer Riddell, accepting $4.875 million total to settle the case out of court.
As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego ABC affiliate 10News.com and other sources, the family of former North County (Calif.) High football player Scott Eveland settled their case against the San Marcos Unified School District and Riddell on Thursday, representing a figure far smaller than the Eveland's originally set out to gain, but still an astronomical sum from a school district; SMUSD agreed to pay $4.375 million in the settlement while Riddell will contribute just $500,000.
Those sums may be comforting, but will still go just a small way toward the lifetime care of Eveland, now a 22-year-old who has limited speech capabilities and communities largely with the help of an iPad. At the age of 17, Eveland was catastrophically injured after being told to play in a game despite complaining of debilitating headaches and asking to sit out.
According to the Union-Tribune, Eveland's headache on the night of September 14, 2007 was so painful that he had trouble focusing his eyes. That led the star linebacker to tell athletic trainer Scott Gommel, who agreed that the defensive stalwart should sit out the first quarter and wait to see if his vision improved.
Gommel gave his advice to North County head football coach Chris Hauser, but Hauser insisted on playing the teen anyway. Before the end of the first half, Eveland collapsed with significant bleeding on the brain, a condition which has left him severely disabled and confined to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.
While attorneys for both sides of the case issued a statement of relief that it had reached a conclusion after four years of litigation, neither side ultimately received the vindication they set out to achieve, despite damaging testimony against the North County coaching staff by the school's student trainer Breanne Bingen, who first introduced the account of Hauser ignoring Gommel's advice and Eveland's pleas to stay out of action in court testimony.
"All parties agree that this settlement presents a compromise that is in the best interests of Scott Eveland," a joint statement released by both lawyers read. "The money paid in this settlement will assist Scott in obtaining future medical care and treatment, which has been the longtime concern of the San Marcos Unified School District and the San Marcos community.
"Scott Eveland and his family agree that this settlement does not suggest that the professional and hard-working coaches, athletic trainers, administrators and staff of the Mission Hills High School intentionally contributed to the unfortunate and tragic accident that occurred during a high school football game."
While the settlement may not solve Eveland's lifelong struggles, it at least brings to a close a troubling and contentious period for both the young man and the school district in which he was raised.