ESL high school football player sues district over stroke, coma

Kelly Holleran Aug. 3, 2009, 10:00am

The mother of an East St. Louis High School football player has filed suit against East St. Louis School District 189 and East St. Louis Senior High School and its football coach, alleging her son suffered several strokes and was in a coma for two weeks because of the coach's alleged harsh treatment of his players and the inappropriate equipment the players wore.

Shanai McLorn claims her son, Demond Hunt Jr., was a member of the East St. Louis High School football team from 2007 until 2008.

On Oct. 3, while participating in a varsity football game, Hunt sustained serious and permanent head, brain and neurological injuries when he suffered a burst blood vessel in his brain resulting in several strokes, according to the complaint filed July 29 in St. Clair County Circuit Court. Because of the incident, Hunt also lay in a coma for two weeks, the suit states.

McLorn blames the incident on a defective helmet Hunt was wearing at the time.

"Plaintiff was provided a defective football helmet in that it was designed to have air bellows provide protective cushion to the head and brain from injury, but that the Defendants failed to assure the air bellows were properly inflated," the suit states.

The defendants allowed the helmets to remain in an unsafe condition, even though they were provided warnings that informed them any failure to maintain proper air inflation could result in serious head injuries, according to the complaint.

Just before his head injury, Hunt had been complaining to his coach, Darren Sunkett, about a headache. Despite Hunt's complaints and his symptoms of a concussion, Sunkett required he play in the game, the complaint says.

"Defendants' policies were to place winning over the health, safety and welfare of its student-athletes," the suit states.

Hunt was not the only student athlete to suffer from serious injuries because of faulty equipment and because of Sunkett's instructions, McLorn claims.

"The Administrators of the School District were aware of repeated and serious injuries suffered by its student-athletes," the suit states.

In fact, Sunkett would taunt students who were not playing or who were complaining of symptoms consistent with a concussion, according to the complaint. Once, he yelled at a student with a head injury to "quit playing like a little (expletive) and get out there," the complaint says.

When students were injured, Sunkett failed to tell parents of their children's wounds, according to the complaint.

Even though East St. Louis School District 189 was aware of the students' problems, it tolerated Sunkett's behavior, McLorn says.

Prior to the Oct. 3 incident, Hunt suffered a broken collar bone in July 2008 when Sunkett ordered him to tackle another athlete while neither was wearing protective equipment, the suit states. According to the complaint, the other athlete involved in the incident suffered a broken neck.

Because of the way he was treated, Hunt incurred tremendous pain and suffering, suffered permanent and disabling brain and neurological injuries and required extensive physical therapy, the complaint says. He has racked up medical expenses of more than $200,000, will lose income and will lose his ability to enjoy life, according to the complaint.

In the three-count suit, McLorn is seeking an unspecified judgment, plus other relief the court deems just.

She will be represented by Stephen P. McGlynn of McGlynn and McGlynn in Belleville.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-402.

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