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The Derek Sheely Litigation Leads to a Landmark Settlement

2016 August 9

On August 28, 2011, Derek Sheely died as a result of second-impact syndrome. On August 22, 2013, the family of Derek Sheely filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NCAA, Kranos (dba “Schutt Sports”), George L. Heider, Inc. (dba “Sportsmans”), two Frostburg State University (“FSU”) coaches, and a Frostburg State athletic trainer, asserting that Derek’s death was a preventable tragedy.

After almost three years of hard-fought litigation, and near the eve of trial, the Parties announced that a settlement was reached. The settlement provides that the Defendants will pay $1,200,000.00 to The Derek Sheely Foundation.

“This is a landmark settlement not just because it is the first brain-injury case that the NCAA has agreed to pay a significant amount of money to resolve, but also because the stakeholders of football are now on notice that they have an obligation to protect the health and safety of the athletes, and if they fail to do so, there will be vast repercussions,” said the Sheely’s attorney Kenneth McClain of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, in Independence, MO. “While we were eager to try this case to a jury, we were able to craft a settlement that will have a much greater impact than a verdict could have achieved in this case.”

In addition to the monetary terms, the Parties agreed to the following terms that are aimed at increasing awareness and research about concussions.

  • The NCAA and FSU, including by and through the University of Maryland medical division, will sponsor and fund, in conjunction with The Derek Sheely Foundation, a symposium in honor of Derek Sheely to occur no later than December 31, 2018.  It will focus on reduction of catastrophic risk to student-athletes or another similar topic. The symposium will be presented to coaches, trainers, sports medicine personnel, student-athletes, youth, and parents.  Participants in the symposium or lecture series are expected to include the representatives of the NCAA and the Sports Sciences Institute, a representative of The Derek Sheely Foundation, prominent neurologists, team physicians, and other experts in the field.  The NCAA and FSU will evaluate whether to sponsor or co-host additional symposiums with The Derek Sheely Foundation.
  • FSU will establish an annual Derek Sheely Foundation fundraiser on campus to begin no later than August 1, 2017.  FSU will consult with The Derek Sheely Foundation on the schedule and nature of the fundraiser.
  • FSU will provide sufficient funding to enable The Derek Thomson Sheely Leadership Award to be increased to a full-tuition scholarship for a minimum of 10 years, and potentially longer, to begin on or before the 2017-2018 academic year.
  • The NCAA and FSU, in conjunction with The Derek Sheely Foundation, will make a research award towards a project dealing with catastrophic risk no later than December 31, 2018.  The Derek Sheely Foundation will be consulted on the topic of the research award project.  In addition, the Derek Sheely Foundation will be acknowledged as a sponsor of the research.
  • FSU will retire Derek Sheely’s number and display it in a location on campus.  FSU will consult with The Derek Sheely Foundation on the location.  In addition, the 2016 FSU football program will include a feature in memorial of Derek Sheely identifying his years at FSU, his jersey number 40, his position, a photo, and The Derek Sheely Foundation.
  • The NCAA will continue to discuss with its member institutions policies regarding concussion guideline enforcement, concussion and second-impact syndrome training for coaches and trainers and elimination of certain drills.
  • The NCAA will produce a new video addressing risks of head injuries, including second-impact syndrome, in sports that will be available to member institutions on or before June 1, 2017.

“This is a tremendous result that will guarantee that The Derek Sheely Foundation will be able to continue its mission of protecting the health and safety of athletes, while also ensuring that Derek’s legacy lives on through the Foundation,” said the Sheely’s attorney Paul D. Anderson of The Klamann Law Firm, in Kansas City, MO. “This unprecedented litigation and subsequent settlement have solidified that second-impact syndrome is not an inherent risk of sport and that those who are responsible for the safety of athletes must take affirmative action to prevent a tragedy like Derek’s from ever happening again.”

Statement from Ken and Kristen Sheely

In August 2011, our beloved son Derek Sheely suffered a fatal brain injury during football practice and our lives have been forever devastated.  We established the non-profit Derek Sheely Foundation to increase awareness and research into sports-related concussions in hopes of preventing other children from suffering Derek’s fate. This settlement will help the Derek Sheely Foundation achieve its goals.

We wish to thank the brave players who stepped forward for Derek.

We believe that Derek’s case has set an important precedent and helped shape the national dialog.  We also believe that more must be done to protect athletes, and we will continue to make this our mission.

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