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San Diego-area school district to pay $4.4 million for football head injury

SAN DIEGO -- A San Diego-area school district has agreed to pay a $4.4 million settlement to a man who suffered a head injury playing high school football and now must communicate through a keyboard.

The agreement announced Friday comes as the problem of head injuries in football has gained prominence due to lawsuits brought against the National Football League by former players complaining of ongoing life struggles from concussions.

Scott Eveland, now 22, was a senior and a linebacker with the Mission Hills High School Grizzlies in San Marcos, a town 30 miles north of San Diego.


He collapsed on the sidelines after playing the first half of a game on Sept. 14, 2007, and was rushed to the hospital where doctors were able to save his life by removing part of his skull. But the heavy bleeding inside his brain caused him extensive damage.

 

"We are very pleased we were able to get that settlement because it gives Scotty a safety net," said his attorney David Casey Jr.

The San Marcos Unified School District, which oversees the school Eveland attended, did not admit any responsibility in the settlement. "Scott Eveland and his family agree that this settlement does not suggest that the professional and hard working coaches, athletic trainers, administrators and staff of the Mission Hills High School intentionally contributed to the unfortunate and tragic accident that occurred during a high school football game," the district and attorneys for Eveland said in a joint statement on Friday.

Due to the head injury, Eveland is confined to a wheelchair and he cannot stand or speak, said his principal attorney, Robert Francavilla.

He communicates through an iPad or a specially designed keyboard, and someone must support his arm at the elbow so he can do that, Francavilla said.

Earlier this year, more than 20 concussion-related lawsuits brought since August by former players against the NFL were consolidated in federal court in Philadelphia.

The NFL has recently faced a mounting number of suits by former players who contend they suffer long-term effects from head injuries. League officials have sought to crack down on helmet-to-helmet hits, and in 2010 the NFL created a committee to try to prevent and better manage concussions.

Eveland's mother, Diane Luth, sued the district for what happened to her son in September 2007.

"The care that we have to give Scotty, it's something I would not wish on any person, anybody's family," Luth told NBCSanDiego in a 2010 interview.

A former student claimed the team's head coach ignored signs that Scott was in distress.

According to a deposition obtained by NBCSanDiego, an assistant student trainer, Breanna Bingen, said warning signs about Scott's condition were ignored.

In the deposition, Bingen said that a week before the injury, Scott complained to the team's athletic trainer about having headaches, which caused Scott to miss certain parts of practice.

Bingen also said that just a few minutes before the game, Scott asked if he could sit out the first quarter because his head was hurting, but Bingen claims Coach Chris Hauser refused to take him out.

Reuters and NBCSanDiego contributed to this story.

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