College and University

Judge removes defendants in concussion suit against illinois


College and University

Judge removes defendants in concussion suit against illinois

Former Illini soccer player Casey Conine’s lawsuit alleging University of Illinois officials mishandled treatment of her concussions is still ongoing, but without the high-profile defendants.

In a Wednesday ruling on the UI’s motion to dismiss, Judge Jeffrey Ford threw out the counts against soccer coach Janet Rayfield and former athletic director Mike Thomas. Ford also threw out a count against Paul Schmidt, in his role of director of sports medicine, but kept Schmidt and soccer trainer Brittany Scott as defendants in their role as athletic trainers.

In the lawsuit, Conine alleged that she suffered a concussion in a match against Northwestern on Oct. 5, 2014, and Scott did not follow protocol in that incident. The suit alleges that the team sent Conine on a road trip to Maryland two weeks after the original incident and that she was told by Scott that she was cleared to play without first receiving a follow-up exam by a physician. In that game, Conine felt ill after heading the ball.

In December 2014, she was medically disqualified from playing soccer.

Ford said the suit didn’t allege a law that showed Rayfield or Schmidt were responsible for overseeing the trainers’ conduct.

Ford agreed with the university’s argument that Conine signed a waiver saying she accepted all risk for playing soccer, but ruled that the trainers can still be held responsible.

“It is, however, a totally distinct event if one of the university defendants is negligent in the course of an action and breaches a duty owed to plaintiff, such as not providing on-site injury care and evaluation,” Ford’s ruling read.

Conine has 30 days to file a response. A previously scheduled hearing for Jan. 5, 2016, has been vacated.

“The university is satisfied that the court found in favor of large portions of its motion to dismiss, including ruling that there was no basis for claims against former Director of Athletics Mike Thomas and Coach Janet Rayfield. We are confident that our sports medicine personnel, practices and policies currently provide a high level of care and support for student-athletes,” said UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler in an email.

Rayfield, who has been head coach for 13 years, is a member of the search committee for the next UI athletic director.

Conine’s lawyers had asked for Thomas to be dismissed from the suit, since he is no longer athletic director. He was fired Nov. 9, after the release of an external report’s finding that former football coach Tim Beckman mishandled players’ injuries.

This month, Schmidt was demoted from director of sports medicine to head men’s basketball trainer, though he did not receive any cut in pay. Randy Ballard, the director of integrated performance, was named the interim sports medicine director. Ballard is expected to fill that position until an associate athletic director for health and human performance — a position created by Thomas after allegations of mishandling injuries in three sports but was put on hold after Thomas’ firing — is in place.