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Teen Football Player’s Death Blamed on Schools

MAYVILLE, N.Y. (CN) - A 16-year-old football player died because his coaches kept him on the field despite signs of concussion, his parents claim in court.

In the last game he played before his death on Sept. 16, 2013, Damon Janes sustained at least two concussions, according to the complaint.

Damon had allegedly been playing running back and defensive back for the Westfield-Brocton Wolverines in the Sept. 13, 2013, away game against Portville.

His parents, Dean Janes and Penny Gilbert, say they had been watching "Damon's play throughout the game."

"Damon experienced signs of having experienced at least one concussion" late in the second quarter, during halftime and again early in the third quarter, the Oct. 31 complaint states.

It was in the third quarter when "Damon was tackled, fell to the ground, and was struck in the head," his parents say.

"Damon got up, walked to the Westfield-Brocton bench where he sat, conversed with a fellow player, and then collapsed," the complaint states.

Janes and Gilbert say they realized their son "had sustained serious injury and feared death."

Instead of taking Damon to a trauma center designated to receive pediatric patients, however, the Portville and Westville fire departments had the teen taken to Olean General Hospital, according to the complaint.

Though the fire departments are not named as defendants, Janes and Gilbert did name Olean, Trans Am Ambulance Services and Dr. Brian Harris as defendants.

Janes and Gilbert say Olean "had inadequate certifications, credentials, training, experience, and/or facilities to treat trauma of the nature sustained by Damon."

The Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo admitted Damon the next day, but he died on the 16th, according to the complaint.

Janes and Gilbert blame the Westfield Academy and Central School District and the Brocton Central School District for their lack of a safety policy regarding concussions.

Damon's coaches allegedly did not complete state-required training and certification, which would have educated them on the nature of concussions and how to identify students who have been concussed.

There was also no trainer at the game, according to the lawsuit.

Janes and Gilbert complain that the response on the field to Damon's injuries "was unplanned, disorganized and unresponsive to the seriousness of his situation."

They say Westfield and Brocton had too few players to field a team, resulting in students playing both offense and defense, and making students compete against a team with "significantly larger" players.

The New York Public High School Athletic Association, a defendant in the suit, categorizes teams based on enrollment, rather than the size of their players or number of players per team, the complaint states.

Section VI of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and New York State Association of Certified Football Officials round out the list of defendants.

Janes and Gilbert want punitive damages for wrongful death, conscious pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

They are represented by Dale Robbins with Burgett & Robbins in Jamestown.

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