Mother: Joplin coaches let player struggle to breathe, didn't call 911

·3 min read

May 25—The mother of a student who played football for Joplin High School has filed a lawsuit in Jasper County Circuit Court, alleging that coaches did not call for emergency assistance as the student suffered breathing problems that led to his death from cardiac arrest.

Lashonda Roberts, the mother of Kadin Roberts-Day, filed the wrongful-death suit earlier this month against several coaches and trainers who were associated with the football team in September 2019. Roberts-Day, 15, died on Sept. 4 of that year after suffering a medical emergency during a practice inside the school's gymnasium. He was a sophomore and played linebacker for the team.

The district in a 2019 statement reported the death was because of "a cardiac arrest." Rob Chappell, then the Jasper County coroner, said on Sept. 5, 2019, that asthma was a contributing factor in Roberts-Day's death.

Roberts is asking for a jury trial in a civil case seeking damages in excess of $25,000. Several people associated with the football team, including Logan Shaw, Megan Carder, Brandon Taute, Curtis Jasper and Tracy Saunders, as well three other men and three other women, have been named as defendants, according to the petition filed in Jasper County. Attorneys for the plaintiff are working to identify the six unnamed people, according to the petition.

A spokesperson for Joplin Schools said Wednesday that the district will not comment on pending litigation. Attorneys for the plaintiff could not be reached by the Globe.

The lawsuit is based on security video recorded of the team's Sept. 4, 2019, practice, where Roberts-Day and other players ran up and down bleachers and around a track wearing full pads. The practice was held indoors at Joplin High School's Kaminsky Gymnasium because of high temperatures.

Roberts' attorneys in the petition allege that staff members knew about Roberts-Day's asthma, and watched Roberts-Day struggle to breathe for 26 minutes during a conditioning exercise, waiting to call 911 only after he became unconscious and was not breathing.

The petition alleges several of the defendants seen in the video attending to Roberts-Day pulled out mobile phones but did not call 911 as they checked on his condition. It claims the security video shows that Roberts-Day was observed struggling to breathe from 5:02 p.m. until almost 5:20 p.m., when he sits down with his back against the wall, accompanied by Shaw and Carder. Roberts-Day moved to his hands and knees a minute later; at 5:26 p.m., he is seen in the video collapsing, according to the petition.

According to the lawsuit, a few of the defendants spoke with Roberts as her son struggled, but did not call 911. Roberts had asked the coaches to call an ambulance during one of those calls, according to the petition.

Attorneys also allege the team members did not let emergency workers know about Roberts-Day not breathing until after they were already on scene — a process delayed by responders going first to Junge Stadium, not the high school gymnasium.

A school emergency action plan could have prevented the death, if it was followed, the petition alleges. The policy, according to the petition, requires district staff to call 911 immediately if a student has difficulty breathing. The policy also requires staff to administer CPR or use its automatic external defibrillator in the event of cardiac arrest — neither of which was done, according to the plaintiff.

Roberts-Day's death was used as a rallying point for the team during the 2019 season as it clinched its first Central Ozark Conference title and played its way to the state championship game. Members of the community also helped raise funds to support the team and Roberts-Day's twin brother, Kaian Roberts-Day, who also played for the team.

Follow Digital Editor Joe Hadsall on Twitter at @JoeHadsall.