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SCFE Verdict

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May 25, 2023

SCFE Lawsuit Results in $360,554.19 Verdict

A Clackamas County jury returned a $360,554.19 verdict against the Lake Oswego School District in a lawsuit for a child who suffered a hip injury as a middle school student-athlete. Chad Stavley represented the child, who was a young adult by the time of the trial.

The injury occurred when his wrestling coach urged the child to practice against the instructions of his parents. The child had been experiencing hip pain due to an undiagnosed slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE).

The child's father instructed the coach that the boy would not physically participate in practice until he felt better. Nonetheless, the coach urged the child to participate. Due to the force put on the child's hip in practice, the SCFE became acute and caused the child to undergo urgent surgery.

What is a SCFE?

This case was complicated due to the nature of a SCFE. A SCFE is a hip condition that occurs in teens and pre-teens who are still growing. The ball at the top of the femur slips off the femur in a backward direction. This causes pain and instability in the affected hip. The condition usually gradually develops and requires surgery to stop further slipping. It is very important to diagnose a SCFE as quickly as possible before it becomes unstable and can potentially lead to avascular necrosis and serious complications.

The difficulty in this case was that the SCFE was not caused by the coach or the school district.  It was further complicated because the SCFE symptoms had arguably been present for months without medical intervention.  The defense argued that by the time of the event at wrestling practice, the damage had basically been done.  

Why The School District Was Responsible?

The jury returned a verdict for the injured wrestler because his pre-existing SCFE was "stable" before he attended wrestling practice and was made "unstable" by the force that occurred in wrestling practice.  Medically, a "stable" SCFE is one that, while painful, does not prevent the child from walking.  An "unstable" SCFE prevents a child from walking and has a less favorable prognosis after surgical repair. So, while the child would need surgery even if the SCFE was caught while still stable, the need for revisions and other future care is more likely when a SCFE has become unstable.  

Have There Been Other SCFE Verdicts?

We aren't aware of any other similar SCFE verdicts. The only SCFE lawsuits we could discover were medical malpractice lawsuits alleging that a doctor was negligent in failing to diagnose the SCFE and the delay resulted in an unstable SCFE and complications.

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