U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

4th Cir. Sidelines College Football Player Who Survived Heatstroke

Gavin Class, the Towson University football lineman who underwent a staggering 14 surgeries after he nearly died of heatstroke during practice will not be returning to the field, ruled the Court of Appeals.

The 4th Circuit ruled that it was required to defer to Towson University's policies and judgment regarding whether or not Class could be cleared to play. Despite the setback, the court praised Class for his accomplishments and declared that he "can be proud to tell his story."

Heat Stroke

Class collapsed on the field during practice in 2013 and was rushed to intensive care. His body temperature rose to 108 degrees, causing stroke and liver failure. He underwent an almost unbelievable 14 surgeries at the University of Maryland Medical Center, one of which included a liver transplant. He was initially cleared to return to play, but that decision was vetoed in May when Towson's doctors said that Class's current condition still posed an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.

Class's Lawsuit

Gavin sued his school to let him continue playing and won in district court where the judge reprimanded Towson University for keeping him off the field. His theories of suit were under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.

On appeal, the 4th Circuit agreed with the school. In a 54 page opinion, the court went on to detail that the district court simply applied the wrong legal standard when evaluating the school's decision. The dissenting judges agreed in part, but reasoned that such deference had to be "reasonable" -- everyone's favorite word. Finally, one judge even suggested that the case should be remanded for further factual findings.

It's All the Same Anyway

Class seems to have shrugged his shoulders as to any hope getting back into play, but he says that he wants to win the case for future players who would follow him. Class is currently a senior at Towson. A favorable ruling by the appeals court would have allowed him to at least play a final season.

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