On July 22, 2017 Louisville was under a heat advisory. The heat index the previous day had been 107 degrees. Still, the Saint Xavier cross country team conducted practice, including a 12-mile run, at a local park. One runner, Cooper Marchal, suffered a heat stroke during the practice, during which he lost consciousness, was hospitalized, and was put in a medically-induced coma.
Now Marchal is suing the school, claiming it "was negligent in hiring, training, educating, and supervising its coaches and coaching staff," who "failed to adequately supervise, screen, test, monitor, and treat the student runners for heat-related injuries and illness."
In Hot Water
"Cooper wants what happened to him to never happen to another student-athlete and looks forward to his day in court," according to his lawyers. "The lawsuit involves allegations of carelessness on the part of St. X in having its student-athletes run 12 miles during a cross-country practice on one of the hottest days of last year without taking adequate precautions." The suit does not name cross country Head Coach Charles Medley or Assistant Coach Andrew Meirose as defendants, but claims the school is liable for their negligence.
According to Marchal's lawsuit, the Louisville metro area had an air temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit the day of the incident and a "calculated heat index" of 101 degrees at 10 a.m., around the time he suffered the heat stroke. The suit also cites a 2002 Kentucky High School Athletic Association policy meant to keep student athletes safe during hot weather.
Marchal, who graduated from Saint Xavier this year finished fifth in the 3200-meter run at the Class 3A state track and field meet in May, is seeking compensation for medical costs, pain and suffering, emotional and mental distress, lost wages, future earnings, and "loss of enjoyment of life." The school and coaches have yet to respond publicly to the lawsuit.
While most student athletes sign liability waivers for school sports, those waivers may not be enforceable if school staff were negligent in their supervision or coaching. So in some cases, schools can potentially face liability even if a waiver was signed.