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News / Clark County News

Lawsuit filed on behalf of injured teen gymnast

It says Evergreen school district bears responsibility

By Paris Achen
Published: February 10, 2015, 4:00pm

A court-appointed representative has sued Evergreen Public Schools on behalf of a 15-year-old girl who was seriously injured in a fall during a Mountain View High School gymnastics practice last month.

Her attorney, Grant Gehrmann, claims in the lawsuit that the school district was negligent in training its employees to supervise gymnastics practice and to respond to an accident.

He wrote that “as a direct and proximate result of defendant’s negligence, …plaintiff has incurred mental and physical pain, both past and present, and will continue to suffer such pain in the future.”

The high school freshman was injured when she and other members of the high school gymnastics team participated in an open gymnastics practice Jan. 2 at Northpointe Gymnastics, 6707 N.E. 117th Ave., which the high school rents for practices.

The girl went to some gymnastics bars and began practicing what’s known as an uneven bars routine when she fell and landed on her head, according to the complaint filed Friday in Clark County Superior Court.

The fall fractured her cervical spine, requiring a surgical placement of a metal structure in her neck, Gehrmann wrote.

She has undergone multiple corrective surgeries and will need additional medical care, he said.

Gehrmann claimed that the school district failed to ensure an adult was providing spotting, guidance and instruction during the girl’s routine. He also wrote that the gymnastics coach failed to summon timely medical care after the girl fell.

The girl reported to Mountain View coach Cristi Westcott that she had been knocked out during the fall and that her neck hurt. She also reported experiencing tingling in her forehead and chin, according to the lawsuit. Westcott moved the girl by “sitting her upright and placed ice on her neck, putting (the) plaintiff in significant additional pain and … increased risk of additional severe injuries, including paralysis and neurologic injury,” Gehrmann wrote in the complaint.

The coach called the girl’s mother, Barbara McCarty, to the gym and suggested that the mother take the girl to have an X-ray, but instead, the mother immediately called 911, according to the lawsuit. The call was placed about 35 to 45 minutes after the initial injury, Gehrmann wrote.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages to be determined during a jury trial. Attorney William Thayer was appointed by the court to act as the girl’s representative in the lawsuit, a role described in the legal system as a guardian ad litem. The representatives are appointed when a plaintiff is a minor.

School district officials declined to comment on the pending litigation. District spokeswoman Gail Spolar said Canfield, the third-party administrator for the district’s schools insurance association, is handling the claim.

Phil Riche, Canfield’s vice president, did not immediately return a phone call from The Columbian seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The uneven bars routine involves a series of flips and twists between two uneven parallel bars that are nearly 5 feet apart, according to iSport.com.

The website states that the routine is one of the most difficult to learn.