Kennison

A 400-pound bronze bulldog statue stands guard just inside the gates of the Kennison Field Complex at Hermiston High School. The Hermiston School District recently settled with a former football player who claimed the district and its staff were negligent in treating a concussion he suffered during a game.

HERMISTON — The Hermiston School District and a former Hermiston High School football player reached a settlement on a $38.9 million federal lawsuit over a concussion the latter suffered in 2016.

On July 6, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Marco Hernandez dismissed the case, citing a settlement that was reached between the two parties. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed and neither the district nor the former player’s attorneys responded to requests for comment as of press time.

In 2018, former player Connor Martin and his parents sued the Hermiston School District and several athletic personnel, claiming he suffered permanent injuries to his head, back and neck during a 2016 football game, but staff did not inform his parents about their son’s injuries, nor did they conduct the proper tests to determine Martin’s readiness to return to football. Three years into the lawsuit, the plaintiffs’ case was dealt a setback when Martin tried to amend his pretrial order to reflect a change in his account of the injuries, attributing them to a drill he participated in ahead of the game instead of the game itself.

Hernandez denied the motion on June 23 and less than two weeks later, he announced the settlement.

Martin and his parents initially filed their lawsuit in Umatilla County Circuit Court in September 2018, suing not only the Hermiston School District but also Athletic Director Larry Usher, athletic trainer Dan Emery, head football coach David Faaeteete and junior varsity football coach Matthew Bruck. The family asked for $25 million in damages for Martin’s bodily injury, anxiety and impaired living capacity, as well as $13.2 million to cover his past and future medical expenses. The family also claimed the parents’ relationship with their son was impaired and asked for $350,000 in compensation for emotional distress.

The original lawsuit stated Martin was first injured when he received a helmet-to-helmet hit during the first half of a junior varsity game against Bend’s Mountain View High School Sept. 15, 2016. A trainer from Mountain View diagnosed Martin with a suspected concussion, but the document states Bruck put Martin back into the game in the fourth quarter. The family claimed Emery never administered Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing after the game and cleared him to play in an Oct. 20 game where his condition worsened.

The district denied most of Martin and his family’s claims and the case was moved to federal court in 2019, with the family arguing the district violated Martin’s 14th Amendment right to be free from bodily harm.

In November 2020, Hernandez dismissed all the claims made against Usher, Emery and Faaeteete while maintaining all the claims made against the district and some of the claims made against Bruck. After the district’s lawyers showed Martin a video of the game, the family’s legal team wanted to amend his pretrial order so it stated he may have received his first head injury during contract drills before the game rather than during the game.

Before the district and the Martins reached a settlement, Hernandez denied the plaintiff’s motion to amend the pretrial order.

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