Family of Deceased UCF Football Player Can Seek Punitive Damages in their Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against the University

Three years after University of Central Florida football player Ereck Plancher died after an off-season practice session that set off his sickle cell trait, a judge has given his family permission to seek punitive damages against the university. Plancher’s family is suing UCF for Florida wrongful death.

The Planchers claim that UCF was negligent because school trainers and coaches allegedly ignored Plancher’s symptoms of exhaustion, dizziness, and breathing problems even though they knew that the 19-year-old had sickle cell trait and his physical condition was supposed to be monitored. Yet, according to some of Plancher’s teammates, the football staff failed to come to the wide receiver’s aid soon enough. The Orlando Sentinel even reported that in the months before Plancher’s death, he collapsed twice after workouts.

The university maintains that the footballs staff did everything to save Plancher and that punitive damages are not appropriate in this case. Judge Robert Evans, however, believes that there is reasonable basis under the law to let the plaintiffs seek punitive damages.

Punitive Damages
Under Florida law, a defendant can be held liable for punitive damages only if there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant engaged in gross negligence or intentional misconduct that resulted in the Florida injury or wrongful death. Barring certain exemptions, as outlined in Florida Statute §768.73, punitive damages awarded cannot exceed $500,000 or exceed three times the compensatory damages awarded to each claimant.

However if there is evidence that the wrongful conduct was motivated by unreasonable financial gain and that the person in charge of making policy decisions for the defendant knew that the injury was a likely consequence, then punitive damages cannot go over $2 million or four times the amount of compensatory damages each claimant is awarded. Or, if it can be proven that the defendant purposely intended to harm the claimant and did in fact inflict injuries, then there will be no cap on punitive damages.

You should speak with an experienced South Florida injury lawyer about your Miami wrongful death case.

Family of dead UCF player given the green light to seek damages, NBC Sports, March 28, 2011
Ereck Plancher family can seek punitive damages from UCF Athletic Association, judge rules, Orlando Sentinel, March 25, 2011

Related Web Resources:
University of Central Florida

Sickle Cell Trait, IDPH

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