Court of Claims: Former Bowling Green Football Player Settles Concussion Claim for $712,500
Bowling Green State University (BGSU) has agreed to pay $712,500 to a former red-shirt freshman offensive lineman who claimed football team coaches and medical staff failed to withhold him from practices after suffering repeated concussions, which has led to a permanent brain injury.
Cody Silk, who joined the BGSU football team in 2010, sued the university in the Ohio Court of Claims, alleging the failure to diagnose him with two concussions led him to participate in full contact practices until a third concussion occurred. At that point team doctors medically disqualified him from playing football at the university.
The Court of Claims first rejected Silk’s claims that the university was legally responsible for his alleged permanent brain injuries. In 2014, Judge Patrick McGrath granted partial summary judgment to the university based on the fact that Silk, like virtually all other college football players, signed a release of liability to play football and assumed the risks of permanent injury from participation.
The ruling left Silk only with a breach of contract claim that BGSU entered a contract with the NCAA to adopt a concussion protocol, and he alleged that the university breached the contract by failing to follow the protocol and allowing him to participate in practices while suffering from concussion symptoms.
Silk filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing the release didn’t cover “wanton and willful misconduct,” and alleged BGSU’s conduct was wanton and willful. Silk also claimed the release was prohibited by public policy because of the disparate relationship between the parties.
Judge McGrath vacated the partial summary judgment in 2015 allowing Silk to present evidence that the university’s conduct may have been wanton and willful and the release may be prohibited by public policy.
In preparation for a trial, Silk was evaluated by Dr. Robert Cantu, co-director at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University and senior advisor to the NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee. Cantu had also prepared a report on behalf of college athletes that led to a settlement by the NCAA to address concussions in college sports. Cantu testified in a deposition that Silk is likely to have suffered permanent post-concussion syndrome as a result of BGSU’s mismanagement.
In defending the university, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office had Silk evaluated by Dr. Michael Collins, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sports Medicine Concussion Program and consultant to several professional sports team including the Pittsburgh Steelers. Collins found Silk was exaggerating his symptoms, over-reporting symptoms, and deliberately underperforming on tests that evaluate cognitive functions.
Instead of moving forward with the trial, the parties agreed to settle the case. As part of the settlement, the university does not admit it is at fault for the injuries, and Silk agreed to not bring any future claims against BGSU.
To access information on other cases, visit the Court of Claims website.
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