OAKLAND, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The parents of Ted Agu, who was a 21-year-old student athlete and a member of the University of California Berkeley football team, filed a wrongful death lawsuit today against The Regents of The University of California arising from Agu's untimely death following a pre-season conditioning drill with his football team. The parents are being represented by LA-based firm Panish Shea & Boyle. The plaintiffs, Ambrose and Emilia Agu, allege that their son died because of the reckless and negligent behavior of UCB football trainers and coaches who subjected Agu to a lethal conditioning drill for a player with known sickle cell trait.
On February 7, 2014, Agu was participating in a conditioning drill near Memorial Stadium on the UCB campus. During the course of the conditioning drill, Agu experienced dizziness, shortness of breath, loss of balance, and other signs of extreme fatigue that were clearly symptomatic of the sickling process. Despite the symptoms which clearly could and should have been observed, UCB coaches and trainers failed to immediately come to Agu’s assistance. It was only after Agu struggled and encountered obvious difficulties for a significant period of time that he was placed on a cart and taken back towards the stadium where he collapsed for the last time. Emergency personnel transported Agu to Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley where he was pronounced dead. The plaintiffs allege that Agu was placed in a conditioning drill that was inappropriate and too extreme given his known medical condition.
At the time of Agu’s collapse, he was under the supervision of Cal Berkeley’s head athletic trainer for football, Robert Jackson. Ironically, this is the very same Robert Jackson who, prior to becoming employed by Cal Berkeley, was involved in a remarkably similar death of another college football player. In 2008, Robert Jackson was the supervising athletic trainer responsible for the welfare of Ereck Plancher, a 19-year-old wide receiver for the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Like Agu, Plancher also carried the sickle cell trait and during pre-season conditioning drills, he experienced nearly identical symptoms of distress as he struggled, sickled and collapsed while under the supervision of Jackson. As with Agu, trainer Jackson failed to intervene and allowed a struggling Plancher to continue the excessively difficult and punishing drill that directly resulted in Plancher’s death. In 2011, Plancher’s family, represented by Steve Yerrid and Jeff Murphy, took the case to a three week trial against UCF Athletics Association, Inc., and obtained a jury verdict and final judgment (including, costs, fees and interest awarded by the court) that is now almost $15 million. Currently, that case is on appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.
“This is a senseless tragedy about an incredible young man. Ted was deeply loved and respected by his family, friends and teammates. He was a leader and a motivator on and off the field and a caring, supportive and loving son to his parents and brother to his siblings. This lawsuit is about seeking justice for Ted and his family and educating our nation’s collegiate athletic departments and their staff and coaches that they can’t turn a blind eye to student-athletes like Ted who suffer from sickle cell trait and the lethal nature of that condition. We are honored to represent his family in this lawsuit,” said attorney Brian Panish.
Added attorney Steve Yerrid, “We have assembled an outstanding legal team to represent the Agu family and look forward to the journey ahead. Jeff and I are very pleased that our dear friend Brian Panish and his preeminent California firm have agreed to act as co-counsel in taking this to trial here in Alameda County. Ted Agu was a model student athlete and a great young man. We look forward to revealing the truth and circumstances surrounding his tragic and premature death. At the core of our dedication to obtaining justice for the Agu family is a desire to put an end to the senseless, unnecessary deaths of young student-athletes like Ted. We intend to do everything possible to effectuate positive changes that safeguard young student-athletes at UCB, and reinforce that motivation in schools across the nation.”
In addition to his parents, Ted Agu was also survived by his three older sisters and older brother.
Ambrose Agu and Emilia Agu v. The Regents of the University of
Superior Court of California, County of Alameda
Case No. RG14735588, filed August 5, 2014