Female football player loses lawsuit in Carroll

June 29, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

A Carroll judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which the county's first female high school football player -- who was seriously injured in a 1989 practice game -- sought $1.25 million from the school board because she said she wasn't adequately warned of the sport's dangers.

In a ruling that attorneys in the case learned of yesterday, Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. granted summary judgment for the school board. He said Tawana and Peggy Hammond, the football player and her mother, "knew about the risks of serious, disabling and catastrophic injury assumed" by varsity football players and they "chose to expose the player to those risks anyway."

The Hammonds' attorneys weren't surprised by Judge Beck's decision, which was filed four minutes after court closed to the public Friday.

"We had anticipated Judge Beck would rule that way," said Daniel H. Green, one of the attorneys. "It's pretty obvious it's a political hot potato and the judges there didn't want to stick their necks out."

Edmund J. O'Meally, an attorney for the school board, said he, too, expected the case to be dismissed.

"You don't have to warn people about the obvious," the lawyer said. "And the risks here are obvious. Anybody who lives in America knows you are going to get knocked around and hit when you play football."

Miss Hammond, now a 20-year-old drug store security guard living in Baltimore, filed the suit last August. She claimed that school officials inadequately warned her of the dangers of playing football.

She was a standout track star at Francis Scott Key when she decided to try out for the football team. The 5-foot, 7-inch, 130-pounder qualified for the team.

She was not at a tremendous weight or height disadvantage, because the Eagles were a small team in 1989, her attorneys have said. It wasn't until she met the 200-pound-plus linemen of Brooklyn Park High School that her size became a disadvantage.

During her debut scrimmage with the Anne Arundel County team on Aug. 25, 1989, Miss Hammond was tackled by an opposing Brooklyn Park player, fell on the knees or feet of another player and ruptured her pancreas and spleen.

Half of her pancreas and her spleen were removed in surgery the next day, and she spent the next four months recovering at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

School board attorneys conceded that Miss Hammond's injuries were "unfortunate," but said they owed her no warning about the dangers of football.

Even without that requirement, the school board says, Miss Hammond's father signed a sports permission form, and she and her parents were told of the dangers inherent in high school sports.

The decision will be appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, Mr. Green said.

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