Wrongful Death of College Basketball Player

In the recent Superior Court case of Hill v. Slippery Rock University, a college basketball player collapsed during a late night high-intensity practice with his team. After being transported to the emergency room, he suffered cardiac arrest and passed away. It was then discovered that the victim suffered from a blood disease that had gone undetected during the preseason physical exam required by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”). The NCAA’s policy at that time only required blood testing for Division I athletes, whereas the victim played for a Division II school and did not undergo the testing.

The victim’s family filed a Wrongful Death lawsuit alleging that the NCAA owed a legal duty to protect its athletes, and that the disparities in the NCAA’s testing protocol increased the risk of harm to the athlete by creating a false sense of security regarding his ability to participate in the mandatory rigorous practices. The Superior Court concluded that the NCAA’s conduct was “an error of omission and a failure in its duty” where it only required the blood testing at Division I schools, to the detriment of other athletes such as the victim. Following the death of this athlete, the NCAA’s policy was ultimately expanded to provide the testing for all athletes.

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