OXFORD – A former University of Mississippi player’s family’s lawsuit remains on the court docket, unresolved as its second calendar year draws to a close.
But a series of rescheduled hearings may hint at a resolution, although attorneys on both sides aren’t responding for the record.
In February 2010, 20-year-old Bennie “Buster” Abram III died at an Oxford hospital hours after he collapsed during formal off-season workouts for the Ole Miss football team. He was a walk-on player from Southaven, a 2007 graduate of DeSoto Central High School.
Three months later, an autopsy reportedly stated that a sickle cell trait contributed to his death.
His family’s wrongful-death lawsuit claims Abram tested positive for sickle cell trait about Feb. 1 but was not informed. His parents also said they were unaware of the condition.
Sickle cell trait is an inherited condition that occurs in about one in 12 of the country’s black population. When the irregularly shaped red blood cells “sickle,” they can restrict flow in blood vessels.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say people who inherit one sickle cell gene and one normal gene have sickle cell trait (SCT). “People with SCT usually do not have any of the symptoms of sickle cell disease, but they can pass the trait on to their children,” the agency shows on its website.
Lawsuit defendants listed include the university, then-coach Houston Nutt, other coaches, Chancellor Dan Jones, the state College Board, University of Mississippi Athletic Association Foundation, NCAA, two hospitals and some medical staff.
While the 32-page circuit court complaint did not state a desired amount of damages, a notice letter sent to prospective defendants said the suit would seek at least $10 million.
The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were so “reckless” as to contribute to his death. Defendants denied the allegation.
After Abram’s death, team doctor Jeffrey Dennis, one of the suit’s defendants, was quoted as saying the player was conscious when brought to the hospital but developed a fever and was hypothermic before going into cardiac arrest.
Then-Ole Miss Athletic Director Pete Boone also released a statement saying medical protocol and emergency action plans had been followed in treating Abram.
The lawsuit was first filed in Hinds County, where the state College Board has its office. But a Jackson circuit judge granted the defendants’ motion to move the case to Oxford.
Since then, a series of filings, motions and hearings have occurred before Circuit Judge Andrew Howorth, most recently notices for a Dec. 5 hearing.
The docket shows no such hearing took place, with the suggestion a resolution has been reached.
If so, the results will be public because the university is a public institution.