OXFORD – University of Mississippi officials say they stand behind their employees and are prepared to fight against a lawsuit that claims negligence on behalf of the school in the death of a former student-athlete.
Southaven native Bennie Abram, a football walk-on who previously played at Itawamba Community College, collapsed during a conditioning workout on Feb. 19, 2010 and died later that day.
His death would have been avoided, Houston, Texas attorney Gene Egdorf says, had the university followed NCAA guidelines to deal with athletes who suffer with Sickle Cell Trait, as Abram did.
The suit was filed Tuesday in Hinds County.
Listed as defendants are Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and his entire staff, the university at large, the NCAA, Dr. Jeffrey Dennis of Internal Medicine Associates of Oxford, Baptist Memorial Hospital of North Mississippi and others.
“We have carefully reviewed the allegations contained in Mr. Egdorf’s notice letters, and we are prepared to defend the good work of our coaches and the care provided by our medical team,” university attorney Lee Tyner said.
In April, Egdorf told the Daily Journal the school had made no attempt to settle and predicted a trial. School officials questioned how much Egdorf wanted to settle.
Tyner, at that time, said the school reached out to Egdorf and asked him to share his findings regarding his allegations of negligence.
“When we received notice several weeks ago that the family may file a lawsuit, the university asked the Abram’s lawyer (to provide) any information that might help us provide better care for our student-athletes. But Mr. Egdorf has refused to do so,” Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone said.
The autopsy report says Abram died from complications from SCT, exertion and cardiomegaly.
In April, Egdorf told the Daily Journal, “Bennie Abram is dead, and Bennie Abram is dead because of what Houston Nutt and his staff not only had them doing in the workout but how they handled it when Bennie started having issues. Apparently his death did not send a message, and sometimes litigation is the only way to get that message sent.”
In the lawsuit Egdorf:
– Seeks a jury trial and assigns no dollar amount to punitive damages to which he says his clients are entitled.
– Takes issue with the university, the IHL Board of Trustees and the NCAA for having “taken no action whatsoever” against Nutt and strength and conditioning coach Don Decker.
– Claims Dr. Jeffrey Dennis produced “new” evidence on Feb. 21, 2011, a year after Abram’s death, with a medical record that states “no sickle cells seen on peripheral smear.
– Claims the actions of the defendants constitute Negligent Criminal Homicide and/or Involuntary Manslaughter in accordance with the State of Mississippi criminal code.
– Claims the NCAA did not live up to its part of a previous settlement involving the SCT-related death of another athlete in which the NCAA agreed to provide schools with an educational video.
– Claims the NCAA was further negligent, because it has the “authority and discretion to regulate off-season workouts, yet has failed to utilize this power.”
– Alleges emotional distress, medical malpractice and violation of civil rights.
At the time of Abram’s death and again Tuesday, Boone expressed confidence in the athletics staff.
“We have carefully reviewed the facts of the tragic loss and the assertions in Mr. Egdorf’s notice letters. All of the actions taken by our medical professionals, athletics trainers, and coaches met or exceeded best practices,” Boone said.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal