A former Illinois high school football player has filed a lawsuit for more than $50,000 against East St. Louis Senior High School, the school district that contains the school and East St. Louis football coach Darren Sunkett.
The lawsuit in question claims that former East St. Louis football player Demond Hunt suffered permanent brain damage in connection with a coma he fell into for two weeks after suffering blows to the head during a football game in 2008. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and our TEGNA partner KSDK, Hunt’s mother, Shanai McLorn, first filed a suit against East St. Louis High and the district in 2009, a year after her son first suffered his injuries.
Among the claims in Hunt’s lawsuit are the following, all of which speak to concerns about oversight of the East St. Louis football program:
During a game against Collinsville High School on Oct. 3, 2008, Hunt, then 16 and a junior linebacker, suffered a burst blood vessel or clot in his brain, causing a series of seizures and strokes that led to a two-week coma, according to the suit. He was hospitalized for at least five weeks.
Hunt’s lawsuit also claims that he broke his collarbone at a practice in July 2008 after tackling another player while neither wore protective gear. The other player broke his neck, the lawsuit claims. It further claims that Hunt was put on a plane to a tournament without receiving medical attention for the broken collarbone.
Prior interviews with the Post-Dispatch included Hunt’s claim that he was forced to play against Collinsville despite complaining of a headache on the day of the game, just as he had earlier that week. Those actions were in line with what could only be reasonably described as a “win at all costs” culture instilled by Sunkett.
While the permanent damage Hunt suffered is not made clear in the brief filed on the case, it is made clear that the former players medical bills related to the injury have surpassed $200,000.
Regardless of whether Hunt’s case is eventually successful, it sets a precedent for former high school who suffered significant injuries during their scholastic careers to file for financial restitution belatedly, a possibility which surely frightens school districts, helmet manufacturers and others who could still find themselves within a suddenly expanded realm of liability.