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$1.5 Million Premises Liability

The family of a 14 year old student athlete settled its lawsuit against the girl’s coach, her school and the gym owned by a neighboring church where she was injured during basketball practice. Katie Patrick was rushed to a local hospital after striking her head on an unprotected, unpadded metal wall located underneath the basketball goal. Although the initial tests were negative, Patrick continued to have headaches, dizziness, and nausea over the next several months. After numerous trips to the doctor, Patrick was finally referred to the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where she was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury.

The plaintiff’s filed a lawsuit against the school, the coach, and the church that owned the gym alleging that it was below the standard of care to allow a basketball practice to occur in a facility without proper padding underneath the basketball goal where players often come in contact with the walls. Attorney Aaron W. Smith retained experts in the area of sports facility administration, design planning, and management and safety in order to prove his case to the jury. The defendants contended that there was no obligation or requirement for them to place padding underneath the goal. Further, the defendants retained their own neuropsychologist, Dr. Brick Johnstone from Columbia, Missouri, to perform neuropsychological testing on Katie. After the testing Dr. Johnstone questioned the severity of Katie’s brain injury and suggested that the test results were inconsistent and unreliable.

Attorney Smith then retained Dr. Joseph Wu, a neuroradiology expert specializing in “active” PET scanning, from the University of California at Irvine. This cutting edge technology is the first of its kind and available only at specialized institutions throughout the U.S. Dr. Wu performed the testing and was able to demonstrate the areas of Katie’s brain that had been affected by the injury. The parties ultimately settled only a week before trial. This case is a prime example of how hiring the right experts can make or break your case.