Pep Rally Skit Spirals Out of Control and Results in Student’s Brain Injury and $10.5 Million Settlement
We all remember the excitement of the high school pep rally. The high school band blaring the school song, cheerleaders flying through the air and coaches and players pumping up the student body with promises of a victory. But a pep rally at Bakersfield High School ended in disaster for one student that has forever changed he and his families lives. Mitch Carter, a 17-year-old senior at Bakersfield High School agreed to join in on the pep rally shenanigans with his classmates by wearing a chicken suit to mock the rival school’s eagle mascot. When the pep rally reached a fevered pitch, a group of student playfully rushed Carter and tackled him. He did leave the gym floor only to return. Shortly after returning, another group of kids, not so friendly, rushed Carter and started a dog-pile on top of him, throwing punches, kicking him and even stomping him as he lay on the gymnasium floor. At one point Carter’s arms and legs were pinned to the gym floor as a student kicked him in the head. Carter had to be helped off the gym floor, having difficulty walking, Carter stated that he felt disoriented, and his head really hurt.
Carter was taken to the hospital and treated for severe swelling of his face, some facial abrasion and sent home. Following the incident, Carter complained of having headaches, disorientation, and his speech was slightly slurred. Three years passed when Carter was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), including extensive damage to the frontal lobe of his brain. The frontal lobe plays a large role in ones’ voluntary movement. It houses the primary motor cortex which regulates activities like walking. His past medical bills at that point had reached over $100,000.
Before the incident occurred at the pep rally, Carter was a model student headed for great things in his life. Class President, a successful student with aspirations of medical school in his future, you could say Mitch was an all American kid. After his pep rally beating Carter’s executive functioning, including his thought processing, judgment, and short-term memory were affected. Carter had gone from being a successful student with medical school on the mind to a person that now struggles to read and has failed multiple college-level classes. Migraine headaches are an everyday occurrence as well as psychological problems and an injury related hormone imbalance that damaged his pituitary gland. This damage to his pituitary glad requires Carter to take growth hormones, and he will continue to need those hormones for the rest of his life. His estimated medical bills for the remainder of his life are upward of $5 million.
The Carter family sued the school district, alleging that the employees of the school failed in providing a safe environment, permitted and encouraged Carter to participate in a school skit that had the potential to become physically violent without providing precautions that would ensure Carters safety, and then failed to stop the skit when it went from a skit to a personal attack on Carter.
The school countered Carter’s allegations by stating that Carter’s academic struggles were not at all related to the injuries he sustained at the pep rally. The fact that Carter was diagnosed three years after the incident was a point that the defenses vehemently stressed and argued that there were other injuries that occurred well after the pep rally in question that could account for Carter’s injuries. Four months before the pep rally Carter was involved in a skit that included him being struck in the head with baseballs, and as far as his poor college performance, the defense proposed that Carter’s binge drinking was to blame for his failing grades and poor performance.
In the end, the juror’s deciding the case found that the school district was 100 percent at fault in the matter, and the school district decided to settle with Carter for the amount of $10.5 million.
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