Tampa, Florida, August 5, 2014
Two Tampa attorneys, Steve Yerrid and Jeffrey D. Murphy, along with attorney Brian Panish from Los Angeles, announced today they have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against The Regents of the University of California. Ted Agu, who was a 21-year-old student athlete and a member of the University of California Berkeley football team, died following a pre-season conditioning drill with his football team. The plaintiffs, Ambrose and Emilia Agu, allege that their son died because of the reckless and negligent behavior of Cal Berkeley football trainers and coaches who subjected Agu to a lethal conditioning drill for a player with known sickle cell trait.
On February 7, 2014, Agu was participating in a conditioning drill near Memorial Stadium on the Cal Berkeley campus. During the drill, Agu experienced signs of extreme fatigue that were clearly symptomatic of the sickling process. It was only after Agu struggled and encountered obvious difficulties for a significant period of time that the trainer and coaches offered any assistance. Ultimately, emergency personnel transported Agu to Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley where he was pronounced dead.
At the time of Agu’s collapse, he was under the supervision of Cal Berkeley’s head athletic trainer for football, Robert Jackson. Ironically, this is the very same Robert Jackson who, prior to becoming employed by Cal Berkeley, was involved in a remarkably similar death of another college football player. In 2008, Robert Jackson was the supervising athletic trainer responsible for the welfare of Ereck Plancher, a 19 year old wide receiver for the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Like Agu, Plancher also carried the sickle cell trait and during pre-season conditioning drills, he experienced nearly identical symptoms of distress as he sickled, struggled, and collapsed while under the supervision of Jackson. As with Agu, trainer Jackson failed to intervene and allowed
a struggling Plancher to continue the excessively difficult and punishing drill that directly resulted in Plancher’s death. In 2011, Plancher’s family, represented by Steve Yerrid, Jeff Murphy, J.D. Dowell, and David Dickey, took the case to a three week trial against UCF Athletics Association, Inc., and obtained a jury verdict and final judgment (including costs, fees and interest awarded by the Court) that is now almost $15 million. Despite the fact that UCF Athletics Association had $21 million in liability insurance to pay this judgment, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled that “sovereign immunity” limited the liability of the Athletics Association and its insurance company to $200,000. The Plancher family has appealed that ruling and the matter is currently pending before the Florida Supreme Court.
Because of his reputation as a top trial attorney, as well as the jury verdict he obtained in the Plancher case, the Agu family contacted Steve Yerrid to file a lawsuit on their behalf. Mr. Yerrid has associated Jeffrey D. Murphy, a Tampa attorney experienced in sports related deaths, and Brian Panish of Panish Shea Boyle LLP, a prominent trial attorney in California, to represent the Agu family.
“We have assembled an outstanding legal team to represent the Agu family and look forward to the journey ahead. I am very pleased that Jeff Murphy and my good friend Brian Panish have agreed to act as co-counsel in taking this case to trial here in Alameda County. Ted Agu was a model student athlete and a great young man. We look forward to revealing the truth and the real facts surrounding his tragic and premature death. At the core of our dedication to obtaining justice for the Agu family is also a desire to put an end to the senseless, unnecessary deaths of young student-athletes like Ted. We intend to do everything possible to effectuate positive changes that safeguard young student-athletes at UCB, and reinforce that motivation in schools across the nation,” said attorney Steve Yerrid.
In addition to his parents, Ted Agu was also survived by his three older sisters and one older brother.
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