The school board says a $1.5 million lawsuit filed against it by the county's first female high school football player will be "vigorously defended" and that chances of an out-of-court settlement are slim.
In answers filed in Circuit Court last week to the Aug. 14 suit, the school board argues that Tawana Hammond and her mother, Peggy Hammond, failed to "state a claim upon which relief can be granted" and that the school board "denies liability" for Tawana Hammond's injuries.
"We are investigating the claim thoroughly, and we will vigorously defend this action," said William J. Kobokovich Jr., an attorney for the school board.
Asked if he believed the suit was without merit, he said, "I wouldn't want to say that, but we feel at this point that we will defend it fully. Don't expect us to settle this."
Tawana Hammond, now 19 and living in Baltimore, said in the suit that county school officials failed to warn her of the potential for serious injuries in high school football.
Had Miss Hammond or her mother known of the dangers of football, the suit said, she wouldn't have joined the football team.
State law does not require local school sports departments to provide parents and students with disclosures of dangers associated with high school sports.
Miss Hammond was a fullback and safety for the Francis Scott Key Eagles when she was injured Aug. 25, 1989, during a scrimmage with Brooklyn Park High School of Anne Arundel County.
When she was tackled by a Brooklyn Park player, she fell on the knees or feet of another player, rupturing her pancreas, the suit said.
Half of her pancreas and spleen were removed in surgery the next day, and she spent the next four months recovering at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
el,.5l Her medical bills totaled more than $100,000, one of her attorneys said. Most of the cost was picked up by Medicaid.
Miss Hammond was a stand-out track star at the school and had hoped to continue with competitive sports and eventually enter the military, the suit said.
Her attorney yesterday said the suit wasn't about gender, but rather about the school board's responsibility to give students enough information to make a reasoned choice when entering athletics.
The suit also alleges negligence on the part of Miss Hammond's coach, Michael Coons, who has called the injury a "freak accident."