A Philipsburg-Osceola Area High School track coach is being sued by a former athlete who says the coach jumped up and down on his back during an April 2007 practice and broke one of his vertebrae.
Then-senior Bradley Smith alleges in the lawsuit that he underwent surgery a year and a half later to fuse vertebrae because of the incident, now uses a brace, has no feeling in his left foot, and has “debilitating pain.”
He is suing P-O’s track coach, Douglas Perry, alleging violation of his civil rights and willful misconduct on the part of the coach. He is asking for unspecified monetary damages.
“Bradley Smith was a talented, dedicated and accomplished high school athlete,” his attorney, Andrew Shubin, said, adding that Smith was “a victim of his coach’s dangerous hazing — that a man he trusted, whose job it was to nurture his talent, hurt him, badly and permanently.”
The suit states Perry twice stepped onto Smith’s back April 25, 2007, while he was on the floor doing stretching exercises, then jumped up and down on him.
The first time it happened, according to the suit, Smith asked Perry to stop, and he did. But then Perry stepped on him a second time, began jumping, and “Smith heard a crack in his back and felt excruciating pain,” the lawsuit states. “The pain was so intense, Smith quit practice, dressed, and went home.”
The acts were “sadistic and shocking to the conscience,” Shubin wrote. The lawsuit states that Perry knew that Smith had a prior back injury, and “had no legitimate pedagogical or other valid school/education- related reason for jumping on Smith’s back.”
It is unknown if state police at Philipsburg investigated the incident, or if a report was ever made.
The school district, through Superintendent W. Charles Young, released a statement saying it is “waiting for the legal process to take its course.” The district is not a defendant in the suit.
Perry, through a district spokesperson, said he didn’t want to comment Thursday.
Shubin said Smith “loved competing for his school,” but now “has trouble walking, sitting and sleeping, much less running or competing.”
The suit says that Smith had three vertebrae fused in November and discs replaced. It also says he is forced to use a walker, crutches, has lost his range of mobility, and can’t bend over or “engage in physical activity other than walking for a limited period of time.”
By Sara Ganim