SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) – A $39.5 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought by a California State University San Bernardino student who collapsed from heat stroke during an outdoor class.
The settlement is believed to be the largest ever for an injury case involving the California State University system.
Attorneys say Marissa Freeman was participating in a jogging class at CSU San Bernardino on September 26, 2018, when the CSU instructor assigned a run on a 5K course on the concrete and asphalt surrounding campus in 95-degree weather.
Near the end of the run, Freeman collapsed on the hot concrete outside of Coussoulis Arena with severe heat stroke, according to attorneys.
While an athletic trainer and other university personnel responded to Freeman, attorneys say they failed to "provide any recommended rapid whole body cooling to treat her heat stroke or move Ms. Freeman to the air conditioned arena 20 feet away as they were waiting for paramedics to arrive."
As a result of the heat stroke, attorneys say Freeman suffered a severe brain injury, cardiac arrest, and multi-system organ failure, she underwent months of hospitalization and more than one year of in-patient rehabilitation before she could be released home to her family.
During the lawsuit, CSU denied responsibility and contended that Freeman negligently overexerted herself in the class, according to attorneys.
CSU also sued Freeman's medical providers, including the fire department, ambulance, hospital emergency room, and skilled nursing facility, claiming that they negligently caused her injuries in the process of attempting to save Freeman's life and provide care.
With jury selection still in progress, the court halted proceedings on December 14 due to the COVID-19 surge and ICU capacity in San Bernardino County falling to 0%.
The trial was set to resume last week, but the CSU and the Freeman family have now agreed to resolve the case, attorneys said.
"The Freeman family is grateful that the Board of Trustees has agreed to put policies in place that will hopefully prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring to a CSU student," said attorney Patrick Gunning.
In addition to the monetary settlement, California State University agreed to develop and implement a system-wide policy for heat illness prevention, education and protocols with input from Dr. Douglas Casa, the head of the Korey Stringer Institute, a heat illness research and advocacy organization, attorneys announced.
There was no immediate response by California State University.
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