How Long to File a Lawsuit if a Minor Gets Injured

June 3, 2022
How Long to File a Lawsuit if a Minor Gets Injured

Back in July 2021, an attorney filed an initial civil relief negligence petition with the Kingfisher County District Court on behalf of a former Kingfisher High School student. The plaintiff was identified as “John Doe No. 1.” in the court filings. The petition was filed about a week before the expiration of Oklahoma’s statute of limitations on John Doe’s 19th birthday—the deadline for reporting underage crimes.

Then in January 2022, John Doe’s lawyer filed an amended petition containing a litany of occasions when Doe allegedly suffered abuse, bullying, hazing, and harassment from the coaching staff while playing on Kingfisher’s high school football team. 

The document includes corroborating statements from former and current football players and the parents of Kingfisher students. The revised petition came in just under the deadline for a six-month amendment. 

In March, the district school board for Kingfisher Public Schools rejected the $1.5 million settlement offer. This refusal aligns with John Doe’s allegations and the school’s defense on a collision course in a federal courtroom.

Details of the Case

John Doe played on the Kingfisher high school football team from 2017 to 2021. Before he graduated in 2021, Doe contends he was only one of many players that spent years enduring verbal, physical, and sexual abuse from his teammates and the coaching staff. 

The amended petition states the school district and coaches denied Doe’s rights to due process and equal protection. The complaints also contained Title IX violations and gross negligence against coaches for allowing the abuse to continue.

This abuse included death threats, practices filled with dangerous drills, being tasered, and receiving towel floggings on a daily basis. The coaches and administrators have also been accused of not only allowing the harassment to occur but encouraging it as well.

The initial lawsuit named head football coach Jeff Myers, along with current and former assistant coaches Micah Nall, Derek Patterson, and Blake Eaton. 

Myers took the head coach position in 2003. He led the team to a state championship in 2013. In 2020, Myers was inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame. 

In June 2021, assistant coach Nall resigned after he was found guilty of obstructing an officer during Kingfisher’s police department’s investigation into enabling child abuse.

His legal representation claims the $1.5 million settlement is not meant to hurt or embarrass Kingfisher High School or the community. Instead, the offer was a means of justice for the coaches’ abuse and a chance for the school to avoid a scandalous court battle. 

Without any public comments, the district’s superintendent of schools and Kingfisher’s five-member board voted unanimously to reject the settlement in a March special meeting.

Fallout from the Case

The claims prompted the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) to open an ongoing internal investigation into Kingfisher High School.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) recently announced its involvement in the case after the Kingfisher Police Department requested assistance. District Attorney Mike Fields recently said he was watching the case and the investigation’s findings closely to determine if criminal charges needed to be considered.

As the lawsuit moves along, the school district has seen a lot of employee turnover in its upper-level administration. Kingfisher’s Superintendent Daniel Craig left the school district for CareerTech. He claims his departure has nothing to do with the lawsuit. Hired in May 2021, he only held the position for a little over a year. 

In April, Kingfisher high school hired a new principal. The former principal and superintendent had just left the previous year. In May, Keith Campbell was replaced as Kingfisher high school’s athletic director.

And it keeps getting worse for Kingfisher’s public schools as a change in their insurance carriers caused a coverage gap. This could potentially leave them responsible for paying the legal fees out of the general fund as John Doe seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and if the defendants retaliate in any way, he could possibly ask for injunctive relief.

Doe’s legal team investigated Kingfisher’s football program for six months, logging hours of interviews with former players of the football team, all detailing the program’s history of alleged abuse. The statute of limitations for civil cases concerning abused minors has prohibited the case from expanding into a class action suit.

But many in the local media believe more victims are expected to come forward, but John Doe No. 1’s civil suit is currently in the discovery process. Discovery should conclude in December, and the jury trial is scheduled to begin on February 14, 2023. 

Understanding Oklahoma’s Statute of Limitations

In Oklahoma, personal injuries resulting from others’ negligence often end in lawsuits, but pursuing legal options has time limitations, and the statute of limitations is in place for a couple of important reasons:

  • To ensure evidence integrity. Physical evidence gets lost, damaged, and destroyed. Memories fade with time. 
  • To prevent treating lawsuits like grudges and holding them over someone else’s head forever. Credible cases should result in filed claims, not continued threats.

Typical lawsuits offer a two-year window from the date of an injurious event to file a claim. This deadline applies to most cases, including:  

There are exceptions. For instance:

  • The time frame reduces to a year if state employees or entities covered by the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act are named as defendants. 
  • If an injury is not immediately apparent, the clock does not start ticking until the day the injury is discovered.

Additionally, the statute of limitations is managed differently when a minor is affected. The rules can get complicated when a child’s age impacts the timeframe. These changes include: 

  • Parents or guardians of a child under 12 years old have up to seven years after the occurrence of an injury or the injury’s discovery to file a personal injury claim. 
  • A minor, from 12 to 17 years old, has one year after their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit or have a suit filed on their behalf.

But if parents or guardians seek reimbursements for medical bills or related expenses for a minor’s injuries, they are still held to the two-year statute.

If a person is deemed mentally incompetent at the time of an injury, the statute of limitations may freeze until a person regains mental competency or for up to seven years after the injury occurred.

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