Who played with University of Central Florida's reputation | Searcy Law

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Vincent Leonard

Who Placed the University of Central Florida’s Brand on Trial?

» Written by // July 8, 2011 // ,


It’s not often I read a sports article and find somebody who truly understands the industry I work in like Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel did on his take in the tragic wrongful death case of football player Ereck Planchar. I hope many people take the time to read it so they get the “rest of the story”.

As outlined in an article in a HuffPost College, the case involved a real tragedy:

“During opening arguments in the wrongful death trial, attorneys representing his parents said the 19-year-old died three years ago from complications of sickle cell trait after an excessive workout where Coach George O’Leary ordered water and trainers off the practice field. They claim the university never told Plancher that he tested positive for the genetic problem. They also said coaches and trainers didn’t follow proper emergency procedures after Plancher stumbled, gasped for breath and collapsed.”

The truth is many times our civil courts are backed up because the insurance carriers are in total control of the money and the decision making. I cannot tell you the number of times where the plaintiff wants the case settled, the defendant wants the case settled, the lawyers want the case settled, the mediator and Judge wants the case settled, but sadly the insurance company just wants to make money by holding on to its money longer.

No, I haven’t “drank the Kool-Aid.” All insurance professionals aren’t bad and all lawyers aren’t good.

However this does appear to be a case where the carriers are playing fast and loose with UCF’s reputation and brand. It is reckless to keep doubling the risks for the parties with appeals and dragging the case out. It is tragic for Ereck’s family to be forced to relive the circumstances of his tragic and, apparently, unnecessary death.

I am not even talking just about the moral thing to do for this poor family, I’m talking about the insurance carrier’s duty to the “insured” (the UCF Athletics Association) who paid them significant premiums for the promise that they would be protected and that the insurance company would compensate parties for the negligence of the insured.

The jury was not a run away. They found no punitive damages, but did find negligence in the policies and methods used by UCF; and the jury clearly found that Ereck’s untimely death was the result of ignoring obvious safety issues.

The verdict is not a message that UCF acted monstrously or nefariously, but simply UCF and its staff made serious mistakes; hopefully, mistakes that have been or will be corrected so this young man’s death is not in vain.

The Orlando Sentinel reporter, Mr. Bianchi, is correct. Entities such as UCF need to show some muscle and push back on these aggressive insurance carriers. The idea of insurance is you pay premiums because you are going to potentially make mistakes and face the results of those mistakes. If a carrier simply takes in money and is unwilling to recognize compensible claims then that’s a shell game.

According to published reports in this case it could have settled for half of the verdict! So who’s to blame for a lingering, extended court battle? The family? Please, tell me a wrongful death is not viewed as frivolous even by my conservative peers? UCF? I doubt it. I suspect they want this over as badly as the plaintiffs.

When I see this type of situation, my money is with a “cowboy” carrier that likes betting the farm, especially when it’s not entirely their farm; an insurance company who is quite willing to gamble theirs and their insured’s reputation; an insurance carrier going all in, in order to hold onto moneymaking dollars as long as possible.

Is that what has happened here? Reach your own conclusions.

Next time when you read about one of these verdicts ask yourself who was in control of getting the case to that posture? I bet the farm it’s an insurance carrier that could have avoided it, and saved a lot of money and valuable court resources. I’ll bet it’s an insurance company willing to gamble its insured’s reputation and assets in exchange for just a little more profit.

I guess Mel Brooks was right, “It’s good to be the king”.


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