A high school football player is set to receive a $300,000 brain-injury settlement, despite his claims that he never agreed to the settlement.
In 2012, Michael Rouchleau and his parents sued the Three Forks School District for a life-altering traumatic brain injury he suffered while playing football for the school. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that the Rouchleaus and the district had reached a $300,000 settlement agreement last year, but Michael had recently changed his mind.
Why was the initial brain-injury settlement upheld?
Brain Injury and Initial Settlement
Rouchleau alleged that he first was injured during an August 2009 football practice. He claims that shortly after being diagnosed with a concussion, the school's coaches told him to "run plays" and he was knocked unconscious. With these kinds of football injuries related to concussions, it's likely that Rouchleau or his counsel made reference to the NFL study on concussions.
Whatever evidence was presented prior to trial, the school district elected to settle just a few weeks after a March 2013 mediation. But then the teen's parents said he'd changed his mind.
A hearing on the matter confirmed to the court that the Rouchleaus were generally confused about whether the settlement released the district's disability insurer, Mutual of Omaha, from liability for future benefits. The court also heard testimony that Michael's mother "pressured" him to change his mind about the settlement after he'd agreed to it. Michael denied that, testifying he'd flat-out never agreed to it.
But in the court's ruling on the issue, it found that Michael Rouchleau's testimony was not credible.
Court Says Done Deal
Settlement agreements are in essence contracts, and the Montana court treated the brain-injury settlement like a contractual agreement. In the court's eyes, Rouchleau's attorney was his agent, and authorized to accept the settlement agreement on his client's behalf.
Once his attorney notified the school that his client agreed to the settlement, Rouchleau couldn't ask for takesies-backsies. He and his family are bound by the terms of settlement agreement, which offers $200,000 directly to Michael.
The Rouchleaus may be through with school at Three Forks, but it seems this case taught them a valuable legal lesson.
- Judge enforces $300K settlement in high school football concussion lawsuit (The Associated Press)
- NFL Concussion Settlement: $765M for 4,500 Retired Players (FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty)
- Settlement Agreement Is a Contract, Even Before It's Signed (FindLaw's U.S. Tenth Circuit Blog)
- NFL Brain-Injury Settlement Gets Preliminary OK: 3 Things to Know (FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty)