A football injury that cost the long-time Newport High School football coach his job after the first away game of the 2019 season is now the basis for a civil suit against the school and district.
Rod Losier resigned a week after NHS’s Sept. 13, 2019, game at Phoenix, during which a player suffered a hard hit to the head that left him with a tingling sensation in his arm. The student was benched, but Losier, who had been a coach in local schools for 32 years, admitted he failed to notify the game administrator or parents and allowed the student to drive home after a 3.5-hour bus ride. The student went to a doctor a few days later and was diagnosed with a concussion.
An Oct. 31, 2019, certified letter to the Lincoln County School District from Lincoln City attorney Scott J. Schaub gave notice that the parents intended to file a claim against the district and/or its officials on behalf of their minor child.
Almost two years later, on Sept. 9, a lawsuit naming 2020 senior Ashton Sampson, now an adult, was filed in Lincoln County Circuit Court.
According to the complaint, notice of which was served to defendants on the same date, since the concussion Sampson has suffered chronic headaches and head pressure, tingling in both arms, difficulty with memory and concentration, vision problems, sensitivity to light and sound, mental fog, low energy and drowsiness, and recurrent vomiting and nausea.
The suit names the high school and district as plaintiffs, and it alleges employees were negligent for failing to have appropriate policies and procedures in place for concussions, failing to follow protocols and Oregon law regarding injured students, and failure to recognize the injury and take steps to provide proper notification and medical attention.
The suit asks for non-economic damages in the amount of $75,000 and $3,000 for medical expenses. The district has yet to file a response to the complaint, and on Sept. 28, Sampson’s attorney filed a substitute proof of service to the district and high school.
Sampson’s attorney did not return a message left with his staff, and an emailed inquiry to the superintendent Wednesday morning received an automated out-of-office reply. An email from Communications Specialist Kristin Bigler said the superintendent was not available this week and that Assistant Superintendent Susan Van Liew said the district was unable to comment on the suit.
At the time of Losier’s resignation, Gray was quoted acknowledging that the football coach had not followed state law or district protocol after the injury, and the failure required action by the school district. Losier was allowed to resign rather than be terminated.
It’s possible the superintendent was inclined toward decisive action as a recent defendant in a now-dismissed 2019 lawsuit against the Parkrose School District, where she was superintendent prior to coming to Lincoln County. The suit, also involving a football player who suffered a concussion, was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court by Jonathan Boland. It named Gray, the district and other school employees, and it claimed Boland was subjected to child abuse when he was allowed to return to play with a medical release because he still had lingering symptoms.
According to nonprofit news site InvestigateWest, when Boland’s mother sought records from the district regarding the concussion, Gray asked her to sign an agreement not to sue the district in order to receive those records.
The suit seeking $950,000 in damages was removed to the Oregon U.S. District Court, where it was dismissed by Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman in early 2020 for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.
“Max’s Law,” the Oregon law signed in 2009 that requires coaches to pull students from play following a concussion and restrict them from play or training until they receive medical clearance, is named after former Waldport High School student Max Conradt. Conradt, a junior honor student who planned to play football and study journalism at Cornell University, collapsed on the field in 2001 after playing through multiple concussions and woke up in the hospital weeks later with the mental capacity of a 9-year-old.
No court date is set in Sampson’s suit against the Lincoln County School District.