WAYNE JONES, JR. ET AL.
STATE OF TENNESSEE
Session: August 8, 2018
from the Tennessee Claims Commission, No. T20130811 Robert N.
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.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Tennessee
Claims Commission Affirmed
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.
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Richard H. Dinkins and Arnold B. Goldin, JJ., joined.
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE.
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.
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. Coach Sanders moved the remaining
players to another part of the field.
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.
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.
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