District to pay $5M over teen’s death at football practice

Dec 8, 2022, 3:22 PM | Updated: 3:57 pm

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (AP) — A Washington school district will pay $5.25 million to the family of a high school student who died from a heart attack that happened during a 2018 football practice.

Allen Harris, 16, was participating in a conditioning practice on an “exceptionally hot” July 24 when he collapsed and suffered a seizure after completing sets of sprints, The Seattle Times reported.

The lawsuit says three coaches failed to recognize the sudden cardiac arrest symptoms and didn’t resuscitate him or retrieve a nearby automated external defibrillator.

“The coaches believed Allen was simply having a seizure and had another player pour water on his head,” according to court documents and a statement from the family’s attorneys at Connelly Law Offices.

Whitney Chiang, a Federal Way school district spokesperson, said in a statement that the teen’s death “was felt across Federal Way Public Schools, and those who knew him continue to feel this loss.

“We know our coaches did their best in a very difficult situation,” she said, adding that the district’s risk managers negotiated the settlement during mediation.

Head coach Carl Green and assistant coaches Jared Wren and Elijah Miller were overseeing the workout when Green ran to Harris and saw he was “unresponsive with his eyes back and seizing,” according to court documents. Miller called 911.

The lawsuit alleges over 10 minutes passed before EMTs arrived and started trying to resuscitate him. Two more minutes passed before medics were able to try to shock his heart to restore a heartbeat, the lawsuit claims. Harris later died at St. Francis Hospital.

His family sued the Federal Way school district in 2019. According to family attorney Micah LeBank, discovery in the case revealed the coaches hadn’t been properly trained to identify or respond to sudden cardiac arrest, which the lawsuit claims is a “well recognized medical emergency that high school programs are required to be prepared for.”

Court documents quote findings from a National Athletic Trainers’ Association task force, established in 2006, that recognized sudden cardiac arrest as a significant issue within high school sports, and established protocols for coaches and trainers.

“The Harris family hopes that this settlement will encourage school districts to train their coaches to identify and respond to Sudden Cardiac Arrest and hope that Allen’s legacy can save the lives of other students and student athletes,” a statement from the family said.

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District to pay $5M over teen’s death at football practice