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High School Football Coach Pleads Not Guilty To Reckless Homicide

David Jason Stinson

David Jason Stinson

A first year High School football coach, David Jason Stinson, pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide and negligence for the death of Max Gilpin.  Gilpin was a 15 year old offensive lineman who died of heat stroke last summer in Louisville, Kentucky.   Gilpin was forced to run sprints in a helmet and pads while allegedly being refused a water break.  Gilpin, who was 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, was one of six people to die because of the heat in high school and college athletics in 2008.

In order for the Gilpin family to win their case for reckless homicide case they must prove that Coach Stinson knew or should have known the consequences of his actions, which in this case was that Gilpin would die.  This is a very difficult standard to prove.  The defense will argue that there is no possible way that coach Stinson knew or should have known that Gilpin would die of heat stroke from going through drills that his team probably went through daily.  Stinson was a former player who most likely had to go through the same type of drills and had been an offensive line coach with the team the last four years, never having any incident.  He therefore will argue that there is no way he could have known Gilpin would die.

The Gilpin family will counter with Gilpin’s medical records that were on file with the school which listed Aderall as a drug Gilpin was taking for ADD.  He was also known to be taking Creatine, a muscle building supplement which is known to have heat related side effects.  The Gilpin family will say coach Stinson should have been aware of the risk of death as he had access to the players medical records and he should have noticed that the player was laboring through practice before he collapsed.  However Stinson is not a doctor, he is a coach which is why the defense will prevail in saying that there is know way that coach Stinson could have known the consequences of his actions.  Many players get tired when working out and going through  drills, it would be tough for anybody who is not a medical professional to spot somebody who is about to suffer from heat stroke.  This claim will probably be dismissed.

To win a claim for negligence the Gilpin family will have to prove, but for coach Stinson’s actions Gilpin would still be alive and that the death was foreseeable. A thorough private investigator background check might explore whether Coach Stinson had a history of negligence or if there were any red flags in his coaching career that could have predicted such a tragic outcome. This again is very difficult to prove unless the coach was a doctor or Gilpin showed signs of heat stroke before he collapsed and was taken to the hospital.  I don’t have all the facts but based on what is in the papers, a claim for negligence should be dismissed. In addition, it’s essential to consider the possibility of wrongful death lawsuits in this case.

This case is said to be the first time a coach has been charged for a heat related death of a player.  In a related case, former Minnesota Vikings player Corey Stringer’s widow settled a heat stroke related case against the Vikings this week.  The settlement called for an NFL supported heat stroke educational program for coaches and youth.

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