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Matthew Nace
Matthew Nace
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Field Hockey Concussion Suit Will Proceed Against the NCAA, American University, the United States of America and HealthCare Providers

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Over the past three years, Jennifer Bradley has learned that the journey to justice through the court system can be long and arduous. During her junior year at American University, Ms. Bradley suffered a concussion during a Division I field hockey match against Richmond University. Subsequent to the match, she started to notice signs and symptoms associated with concussions and both voiced complaints and sent emails documenting her symptoms to her team training staff. Nevertheless, she alleges that the team failed to properly diagnose her and implement appropriate safeguards for her return to play status. It is further alleged that such failure by the various defendants caused additional damages and a diagnosis of post concussive syndrome to become permanent in nature and required her to withdraw from school for the remainder of the year as she tried to come to terms with her new functional capabilities.

In August of 2014, Ms. Bradley filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia against the NCAA and American University. The lawsuit alleged various claims including counts of negligence against the Defendants for failing to have in place proper concussion management protocols for the student athletes at American University. At the same time that she filed this lawsuit, she also had to issue notice letters to the various healthcare providers who rendered, what she believes to be, substandard care to her during the time period in question. These notice letters are a required procedural formality for any claim of medical malpractice issued against a healthcare provider for a claim of medical malpractice within the District of Columbia. One of those healthcare providers was a doctor named Anthony Williams. Unbeknownst to Ms. Bradley, Dr. Williams was actually a military physician who was conducting a fellowship under the tutelage of the school’s head athletic trainer.

Once the procedural notice provision had been satisfied, Ms. Bradley was finally able to file additional lawsuits against these various healthcare providers in October of 2014. After all the parties and claims were before the court, the Defendants filed motions to dismiss the lawsuits for various reasons. With the motions ripe to be heard in April of 2015, the United States government decided at the 11th hour that it would deem Dr. Williams to have been a federal employee acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the treatment in question and removed the matter from the Superior Court to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The United States made this last minute decision after it had already denied Dr. Williams’ request to be deemed acting within the scope of his employment on two separate occasions. Once the matter was before the USDC, the United States sought to dismiss the matter on the basis that Ms. Bradley had not followed the proper procedural steps required to sue the United States. Specifically, the government argued that the lawsuit was premature because six months had not yet passed from the date the Plaintiff filed a Form 95, which puts the government on notice of a potential lawsuit. The United States’ Motion to Dismiss was filed in April of 2015, but a ruling did not come until December of 2015.

In December of 2015, the Court granted the United States’ Motion to Dismiss and remanded the case back to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Immediately after the Motion to Dismiss had been granted, now that the six months had passed since the Form 95 had been filed in November of 2014, Ms. Bradley filed another amended complaint in the Superior Court in which she added the United States as a defendant, and then immediately was forced to remove the case back to the federal court. Ultimately, this matter was back in front of the federal court in February of 2016 awaiting a ruling on the same motions that were ripe for the Superior Court to rule upon back in April of 2015.

On April 12, 2017, the Federal Court issued a lengthy and thorough opinion on all of the pending motions. While the Court did ultimately dismiss all of the claims levied against the Patriot League, the Court has allowed Ms. Bradley to pursue her claims of medical malpractice against the healthcare providers and American University, as well as her general claims of negligence against the NCAA and American University. The Court also determined that, given the facts relevant to this claim, Ms. Bradley had acting with good faith to protect her claim against Dr. Williams and ultimately the government. As a result, the Court determined that her conduct in pursuing the claim against Dr. Williams allowed for the tolling of the statute of limitations against the United States, and a finding that her claim was timely filed against the United States.

While this case has not even yet begun to enter the substantive stages of litigation, it has already been a clear example of the vast legal hurdles that one must overcome to simply present a case of medical malpractice in a court of law. It is further evidence that when you have been the victim of medical malpractice it is imperative that you seek an attorney as soon as possible in order to protect your claims and that you seek a knowledgeable attorney in the field of medical malpractice who is capable of working through the various landmines the field of medical malpractice presents. Having been a leader in the field of medical malpractice for over forty years in the District of Columbia and across the nation, Paulson & Nace, PLLC is prepared to lead you across that field of landmines safely.