A California high school has agreed to pay $10.5 million in settlements to a student who suffered brain damage in 2010 when he was tackled by fellow students during a pep rally. Mitch Carter, a successful student who served as student body president, donned a chicken costume during a pep rally to mock an opposing team. His own school's football players were encouraged to mock attack the mascot, but the mock fight quickly turned violent.
The school was accused of encouraging the violent behavior and failing to intervene quickly when the fight turned violent. The school district reached a settlement with Carter's attorneys soon after testimony began in court.
In one account from the case, Carter asked a school administrator if he could stop the performance in the chicken costume after he was knocked over by two students. The school administrator told Carter he would have to pay back the $75 for the costume rental.
Carter quickly began to experience signs of brain damage after the incident, but it took three years for him to receive a proper diagnosis. Carter went from a top student to struggling to maintain his grades after the injury. He suffered migraines and headaches and struggled with depression. His pituitary gland was injured in the incident.
Carter's attorney had originally asked for $45 million in damages due to the severity of the injury and the delay in diagnosis.
The Kern Country School District initially offered to pay $50,000 settlement in damages before the case went to court. The school district eventually raised the settlement offer to about $1.5 million.
The jury found the school district to be 100% responsible for the injury.
Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, this was not the first mascot-related injury at the school. In 2005, a teacher at the school suffered five broken ribs, a torn rotator cuff, and back injuries. Carter's attorney spoke about the culture of violence and negligence that prevails at the school.
Brain injuries often affect the victim's entire future. The damages awarded to Carter included money for special education classes and treatments for permanent pituitary damage. Brain injury victims may need around the clock care or expensive adaptions to their homes.
Victims of brain injuries can also collect damages for the loss of full life in the future. If a brain injury prohibits a victim from certain job duties, damage rewards can include a lifetime of lost income or the difference between the income the victim can earn after the injury compared to the income the victim had the potential to earn before the injury.
Brain injury victims can also collect damages for the emotional pain and suffering caused by the injury.