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Wrestler wins settlement in practice injury

Case name: Ryan M. Lampe v. Allstate Insurance Company, Scott Campbell, Wausau Underwriters Ins. Co., Employers Insurance Company of Wausau, United Healthcare of Wisconsin, Inc., and Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services

Case number: 06 CV 005921

County: Milwaukee

Judge: Dennis P. Moroney

Settlement amount: $3.85 Million

Special damages: past medical expenses: $407,557.44; future medical expenses: $12,028,000; Future wage loss: $1,630,000

What each defendant paid: Allstate Insurance: $200,000; Wausau/Employers: $3.65 million

Date of occurrence: Jan. 4, 2005

Place: Cudahy High School, Cudahy

Plaintiff’s medical witnesses: (treating): Dr. William Warring, III and Dr. Dennis J. Maiman, Milwaukee

Plaintiff’s expert witnesses: Scot Davis, High School Wrestling Coach; Leonard Lucenko, Ph.D. Recreational Risk Management; Karl Egge, Economist; Robert Taylor, Life Care Planner/Vocational Rehabilitation

Defendant’s expert witnesses: Russell Hellickson, Former College Wrestling Coach; Fredrick McGaver, Former High School Wrestling Coach; Douglas Andrewski, Wrestling Referee; Linda Graham, Life Care Planner; Timothy Riley, Vocational Rehabilitation

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Daniel A. Rottier and Christopher E. Rogers, Habush Habush & Rottier, S.C.

Defendant’s attorneys: Todd Smith and Linda Schmidt, Godfrey & Kahn, Counsel for Wausau Underwriters Ins. Co. & Employers Insurance Company of Wausau; John Swietlik and Michael Aiken, Kasdorf, Lewis & Swietlik, Counsel for Allstate Ixnsurance Company and Scott Campbell; Raymond Pollen and Daniel Mullin, Crivello, Carlson & Mentkowski, S.C., Co-counsel for Scott Campbell

Injuries/damages: As a result of a wrestling injury on Jan. 4, 2005, Lampe sustained a cervical spine dislocation called bilateral locked facet at C-5 and C-6. In Lampe’s case, the C-5 vertebrae moved forward onto the C-6 vertebrae causing severe spinal cord injury. Immediately following the injury, Lampe lost movement to all of his extremities and sensation from his mid chest level down. Lampe is considered a tetriplegic. Lampe was hospitalized at Froedtert from Jan. 4, 2005 until his transfer to the Rehabilitation Unit in mid January. He was inpatient at Froedtert Rehabilitation until Feb. 22, 2006.

Due to hard work on his part, Lampe is able maneuver a manual wheelchair and has limited ability to independently type on his computer.

Lampe’s past medical bills equaled $407,000. Plaintiff’s damages’ experts argued that the present value of Lampe’s future medical expenses equal $12 million.

During Lampe’s hospitalization, he received his acceptance letter to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which, due to his injuries, he did not accept. Instead, he enrolled in the Milwaukee School of Engineering. He graduated from MSOE in 2009 with a Mechanical Engineering degree and is currently enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee pursuing a master’s degree in architecture. Plaintiff’s damages’ experts opined that Lampe suffered a loss of earning capacity of $1.6 million. Defendants argued there was no loss of earning capacity.

Insurance coverage under the School District’s policies totaled $6 million. Allstate Insurance, the homeowner’s insurer for Mr. Campbell, had an additional $200,000 of coverage. The case settled in its entirety for $3.85 million.

Insurance company: Allstate Insurance Company, Scott Campbell’s Home Owners Insurer, $200,000; Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company, School District of Cudahy Commercial General Liability Insurer, $3,000,000; Employers Insurance Company of Wausau, School District of Cudahy Excess Liability Insurer, $3,000,000

Plaintiff counsel’s summary of the case: Plaintiff Lampe was a high school senior, and student wrestler at Oak Creek High School. On January 4, 2005, after the Oak Creek wrestling practice had ended, Lampe and fellow Oak Creek student wrestler Tony Megna were invited to participate in an extended after hours wrestling practice held at Cudahy High School. The extended wrestling practice was organized and run by defendant Scott Campbell, a Cudahy High School volunteer wrestling coach and Megna family friend. Campbell was the only wrestling coach present. The extra practice session was also attended by Cudahy High School wrestler Jake Lisowski and was videotaped by the father of Tony Megna.

Plaintiffs argued that the extra practice session was in clear violation of WIAA rules and that the head wrestling coach for Cudahy High School was aware of the extended practice and purposefully left the building before it began.

At the start of the after hours, extended practice, Tony Megna and Jake Lisowski paired up and practiced takedown maneuvers for roughly two minutes. After this session, volunteer coach Campbell made the decision to live wrestle Lampe. Campbell was 43 years old and weighed 205 pounds at the time of the incident. Lampe weighed 189 pounds. Campbell had never met Lampe prior to the day of the incident. Campbell decided to wrestle Lampe without any wrestling warm up or instructions of any kind, and without Campbell making any determination of Lampe’s skill level as a wrestler. Twenty-three seconds into their live match, Mr. Campbell took Lampe to the ground and fractured his neck. Lampe suffered catastrophic injuries as a result.

On June 27, 2006, plaintiff Lampe filed suit against Campbell, his home owners insurer Allstate Insurance Company, and the School District of Cudahy’s liability carrier, Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company and their umbrella carrier, Employers Insurance Company of Wausau, alleging that the injuries and damages suffered by Lampe were caused by the recklessness of Campbell. The Complaint further alleged that Campbell was an insured “volunteer worker” under the policies issued by Wausau and Employers. The plaintiff did not bring a claim against the Cudahy School District itself.

Wausau and Employers filed a joint summary judgment motion on the grounds that Campbell did not fit the definition of “volunteer” under the policies. Both policies defined “insured” to include: “your volunteer workers only while performing duties related to the conduct of your business.” The policies further defined “volunteer worker” as:

“A person who is not your employee and who donates his or her work and acts at the discretion of and within the scope of duties determined by you, and is not paid a fee, salary, or other compensation by you or anyone else for their work performed for you.”

The trial court granted Wausau/ Employers motion for summary judgment, ruling that Campbell did not satisfy the definition of volunteer worker because at the time Lampe was injured, Campbell was not acting at the direction of or within the scope of duties determined by the District. The trial court held that because Cudahy’s head wrestling coach did not require Campbell to conduct the practice and did not control his activities at practice, Campbell could not be considered a volunteer worker.

The plaintiff appealed, and on July 29, 2008, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, ruling that a reasonable inference could be made that the District’s insurance policies covered Campbell as he was working at the direction of the District and engaging in the duties for which he had volunteered.

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