W. Berman, managing partner and co-founder of Seattle-based Hagens
Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, a national law firm, has filed a lawsuit
on behalf of player Zach Walen against Portland State University (PSU),
Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and the National Collegiate
Athletic Association (NCAA) for failing to provide appropriate
post-concussion medical care and negligently clearing him to return to
Walen, whose father Mark
Walen is a former NFL (Dallas Cowboys) player and former NCAA
college (UCLA) football athlete, was recruited to play football for the
PSU Vikings but suffered a severe concussion after receiving a direct
blow to his head during his first game on Sept. 1, 2012.
The athletic staff at PSU allegedly failed to identify the concussion
during or after the game, and he only received medical attention when
his family took him to the hospital after noticing he was exhibiting
symptoms consistent with a concussion. PSU athletic staff later prepared
an Injury Evaluation based on the incident, which noted that Walen was
experiencing memory loss, in the form of anterograde amnesia.
Walen's treatment plan stated that PSU football officials should
continue to monitor Walen, and when he was symptom free and after
passing ImPACT test, they could begin gradual progression back
into football participation.
Walen failed the post-injury ImPACT test, scoring significantly below
his baseline score. Walen, however, was never asked to perform a
subsequent ImPACT test, even though according to PSU's own treatment
plan, a passing ImPACT test was required for Walen to return to play.
Walen was also examined by Dr. Charles Webb, PSU's team doctor and
Director of Sport Medicine at OHSU, who confirmed that Walen was still
impaired by his concussion - and yet didn't provide any further medical
attention for his concussion.
The NCAA Constitution requires that concussed athletes receive a medical
clearance from a physician or a physician's designee before they can
return to play. Walen never received a medical release, nor is there any
release in his medical file.
"Procedures were in place, but in a display of outright neglect, they
were completely ignored," Berman said. "In spite of afailed ImPACT
score and the lack of medical release, PSU officials still found it
appropriate to clear Walen for football participation."
Walen soon began to participate in regular drills or practices and over
the 2012-2013 school year, played approximately eight other games as a
linebacker. During this time, Walen also began to experience unexplained
anger, along with overwhelming feelings of depression and anxiety. He
lost the ability to focus at school, displayed significantly impaired
memory skills, and complained of crippling headaches. He withdrew from
the PSU Vikings football team in October 2013.
Unfortunately, even after withdrawing from PSU's football team, Walen's
symptoms worsened. Walen ultimately requested a medical withdrawal from
PSU so that he could focus full-time on his rehabilitation. He then
underwent a battery of tests and was ultimately diagnosed with
post-concussion syndrome. It was during this time that Walen learned his
reported symptoms stemmed from returning to play too early and that he
also suffered a permanent brain injury.
"Walen is a bright young man and based on his impressive high school
scholastic career, it is likely he would have successfully completed his
degree at PSU, if not for this brain injury caused by flagrant
negligence," said Berman.
"Given the systemic negligence on the part of PSU, OHSU and the NCAA I
am certain that Walen is not the only student-athlete who failed to
receive proper post-concussion treatment. We are proud that he has
decided to come forward and shine a light on those who take the health
and safety of student-athletes for granted. I have no doubt that Zach
Walen will help current and future PSU student-athletes," said Berman.
The suit seeks $5 million in estimated damages for the loss of earning
potential, as well as existing and future medical expenses incurred from
Hagens Berman recently led a separate
class action and settlement that will reform concussion policies
across the NCAA.
Last week a separate suit was filed against the Fèdèration
Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)
and affiliated soccer organizations in the United States by players
alleging that these groups have failed to adopt effective policies to
evaluate and manage concussions. That suit doesn't demand monetary
compensation, but instead, urges changes to current safety practices.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law
firm with offices in nine cities. The firm has been named to the
National Law Journal's Plaintiffs' Hot List seven times. Hagens Berman
has been at the forefront of groundbreaking class actions against the
NCAA including concussion issues and players' likenesses being used in
videogames. Hagens Berman also represents former NFL players in
concussion-related litigation and several former college athletes in
individual concussion cases against NCAA-member schools. More about the
law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Find
the firm on Twitter at https://twitter.com/classactionlaw.
About the Law Office of Robert Beatty-Walters
Hagens Berman Sobol and Shapiro LLP is partnering with the Law Office of
Robert Beatty-Walters in this case.
More information about the case can be found here.
The complaint filing can be found here.
NOTE: Attorney Steve Berman is available as a legal expert for any
upcoming stories you may be doing on the litigation. Contact Aaron Blank
at 206-343-1543 or firstname.lastname@example.org
to schedule an interview.
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