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Jones v. State

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 24, 2019

WAYNE JONES, JR. ET AL.
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Session: August 8, 2018

          Appeal from the Tennessee Claims Commission, No. T20130811 Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner.

         This wrongful death action arises from the tragic death of a state university student-athlete during football practice. The student's parents filed a claim against the State of Tennessee in the Tennessee Claims Commission. After a trial, the Commissioner found that the parents had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) the head athletic trainer violated the applicable standard of care after the student's collapse; (2) the trainer's negligence was the cause in fact of the student's death; and (3) the university was otherwise negligent in caring for the student after his collapse. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the Commissioner's causation findings, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Tennessee Claims Commission Affirmed

          Kirk L. Clements, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Wayne Jones, Jr. and Sonya Johns.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter, Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General, Heather C. Ross, Senior Counsel, and Joe Ahillen, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Richard H. Dinkins and Arnold B. Goldin, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE.

         I.

         On November 7, 2012, Wayne Jones III, a cornerback for the Tennessee State University football team, suffered a sudden cardiac arrest during practice. The athletic trainers called for emergency assistance. Sadly, the paramedics were unable to resuscitate him, and Mr. Jones was later pronounced dead at an area hospital. Mr. Jones's parents blame TSU for their son's death, contending that his life could have been saved if the athletic staff had recognized and properly treated his sudden cardiac arrest.

         Football practice that day began as usual at 4 p.m. The team warmed up with ten to fifteen minutes of stretching. After a punt drill, the players divided into position groups for individual drills. Coach Edward Sanders, the special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach, directed the drills that day for the defensive backs. During a "deep ball" drill, Mr. Jones caught the ball, began his return run, and collapsed face down to the ground. When he failed to rise or respond to questions, Coach Sanders called for an athletic trainer. The first to arrive was Sydney McGhee, a student trainer. She was quickly followed by Monroe Abram, the head athletic trainer.[1] Coach Sanders moved the remaining players to another part of the field.

         Both Ms. McGhee and Mr. Abram were certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). An AED is a portable device that can both analyze a patient's heart rhythm and, if necessary, provide an electric shock to restore the heart's normal rhythm. TSU had an AED on the football practice field in the athletic trainers' equipment van.

         Mr. Abram's initial assessment was that Mr. Jones was breathing and had a pulse. But he was nonresponsive, and his breath sounds were abnormal. Some witnesses thought he was snoring. Ms. McGhee called for emergency medical assistance. Because he did not suspect sudden cardiac arrest, Mr. Abram did not immediately send for an AED. While Ms. McGhee was explaining the situation to the emergency operator, Mr. Jones had a muscle spasm that resembled a seizure. Then, he stopped breathing. Mr. Abram immediately began CPR and sent for an AED. He continued CPR until the paramedics arrived. He later explained that he never used the AED because it did not arrive before the paramedics took over Mr. Jones's care.

         When the paramedics arrived, Mr. Jones was not breathing and had no pulse. They continued CPR and also applied an AED, which advised defibrillation. Although Mr. Jones received three electric shocks on the field and one more during transport to ...


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