Carroll County's first female high school football player -- who was seriously injured in a 1989 practice game -- can't hold the county school board responsible for her injuries, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals said yesterday.
Upholding a Carroll Circuit judge's dismissal of Tawana Hammond's $1.2 million lawsuit against the board, the appellate court disputed Ms. Hammond's contention that she was owed a warning about the dangers of football.
"The central theory espoused by the Hammonds, that the school board had a duty to warn them of the severe injuries that might result from voluntarily participating on a varsity high school tackle football team, is one that, as far as we can determine, has never been adopted by any court in this country," Judge Diana G. Motz wrote for the court in an 11-page opinion.
Miss Hammond and her mother, Peggy, sued the school board in August 1992, claiming school officials never warned them of football's dangers. Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. dismissed the suit in June, saying the board didn't have to warn anybody "about the obvious."
The Court of Special Appeals heard arguments in the case on March 10.
"No one wanted what happened to Tawana Hammond to have happened," said Edmund J. O'Meally, the Baltimore attorney who represented the school board. "It was the furthest thing anyone wanted to happen, but transferring sympathy for Tawana to damages from the school board would be wrong."
The board noted that Tawana's father signed an athletic permission slip, which warned of the possibility of injury associated with interscholastic football. Miss Hammond's lawyers contended that the warning was inadequate.
Neil J. Bixler, one of Miss Hammond's attorneys, declined yesterday to comment until he has a chance to read the court's ruling.
Miss Hammond -- now a 20-year-old drug store security guard who lives in Baltimore -- could not be reached for comment last night.
In arguments before the appellate court, William D. Kurtz, the Hammonds' other attorney, said, "Some people in this society have a limited knowledge of football. The school board has to give the person the chance to know what would happen to their body in this sport. You can't assume what everybody knows."
Miss Hammond was a standout track star at Francis Scott Key High School when she decided to try out for the football team. The 5-foot-7-inch, 130-pound student qualified for the team.
During her debut scrimmage with an Anne Arundel County team 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.
Her spleen and half her pancreas were removed in surgery the next day, and she spent the next four months recovering at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.