A Winnipeg family claims their son has permanent brain damage after being forced to play football with a severe, untreated concussion while attending Bishop's University on a scholarship.
Kevin Kwasny, 24, requires 24-hour care after collapsing in the dressing room at halftime during a September 2011 game in Quebec. He suffered a seizure caused by a brain hemorrhage and internal bleeding.
"It was the end of life as he knew it," lawyer Jamie Kagan told the Free Press.
He has filed a statement of claim seeking at least $7.5 million in damages from the Sherbrooke, Que., university, citing gross negligence by those in the football program.
None of the allegations has been proven and no statement of defence has been filed. This is one of the first lawsuits of its kind in Canada, coming on the heels of many successful suits against U.S. colleges and the National Football League.
"If sport's not going to change itself, then litigation is going to make it change," said Kagan.
Kwasny was recruited by Bishop's out of high school in 2008 and joined the team that fall. He was in his fourth and final year on the Gaiters team when he suffered the injury while playing defensive end.
Kwasny was hit in the head early in the game against Concordia University and went to the sidelines complaining of dizziness and having his "bell rung," Kagan said
Based on guidelines recently passed by Canadian Interuniversity Sport, Kwasny should not have been allowed to return to action until doctors assessed him. The family claims that never happened. Kwasny's temporary replacement also got injured and Kwasny said he was ordered by the coaches and medical staff to go back into the game. That's when he suffered a second, more serious head injury, the lawsuit alleges.
"They didn't follow their own guidelines," said Kagan. "The first concussion made him vulnerable. He returned to the game, but wasn't really able to protect himself."
According to terms of the scholarship, Bishop's agreed to provide Kwasny with "reasonable and competent medical care and supervision at practices and games" and to take "all reasonable steps to ensure that Kevin's risk of and exposure to injury were minimized."
The suit alleges Bishop's failed on both fronts. Kagan said Kwasny was a model student, achieving high marks in the bachelor of arts program with a major in psychology and a minor in health and sports studies. Following his injury, he had to learn how to walk and talk again.
"Kevin has endured pain and suffering and has suffered and continues to suffer severe and permanent physical and cognitive disabilities. He requires long-term inpatient care," the suit states.
His parents have suffered financially as they try to obtain some of the best medical care available at great expense. Kagan said requests for Bishop's to cover some of the costs have been ignored.
The NFL recently settled a class-action lawsuit, agreeing to pay $765 million to more than 4,500 former players and families of deceased players who suffered cognitive injury, including the families of several players who committed suicide after suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.