Mother Sues Football Program Over Son’s Death

ATLANTA (CN) – A Georgia mother claims in court that coaches employed by a youth football program caused her son’s death in July by ignoring the risk of holding a prolonged practice in extreme heat.

Johnny Tolbert III died on July 28 after suffering heatstroke two weeks earlier at a football practice under the auspices of the Welcome All Park Athletic Association Inc. and American Youth Football Inc.

In a complaint filed in Fulton County State Court on Dec. 23, the 12-year-old’s mother, Tarithia Wright, claims the defendants failed let her son and other children take periodic rest breaks to hydrate despite “113-degree heat index temperature conditions.”

According to the lawsuit, the heat index in Atlanta at 7:30 p.m. on July 14 was “at or near 114 degrees.” By that time, Welcome All Park had already been conducting football-related activities for two hours.

“During this two-hour workout period the coaches supervising the outdoor football-related activities had not allowed for periodic rest breaks for the youth participants,” the complaint says.

Wright says after Tolbert began experiencing effects of heatstroke and lost consciousness, it took emergency personnel 20 minutes to arrive at the park. Before the EMT’s arrived, coaches fanned him with wet towels, the complaint says.

Upon his arrival at a hospital, the lawsuit says, Tolbert had a rectal temperature of more than 106 degrees. He remained in a coma until his family took him off life support two weeks later.

“The Defendants failed to provide the youth football participants, including Johnny Tolbert III, with adequate rest breaks, particularly in view of the atmospheric conditions then prevailing in violation of their duty to the youth football participants, including Johnny Tolbert III,” the complaint states. “Instead, the Defendants pushed the youth participants to engage in strenuous football conditioning activities without adequate rest breaks despite the well-known and well-documented need for such adequate and proper hydration.”

Wright seeks compensatory and punitive damages on claims of wrongful death, negligence, and for the defendants failing to have an adequate emergency action plan.

She is represented by Harold Spence of the David Bozeman Law Firm in Decatur, Ga.

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