Family sues Bellevue School District over football concussions

BELLEVUE, Wash. — A former Bellevue High School football player has sued the Bellevue School District for negligence, after he suffered two concussions during practice in 2011. The tort claim form states he seeks $500,000 in damages.

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, alleges that the school district did not withhold Colter Linford from practice while he still exhibited post-concussion symptoms, did not have Linford seek required medical evaluation and clearance to return to play and did not follow student safety rules.

As a result, Linford’s complaint states, that he has sustained injuries including difficulty focusing, short- and long-term memory deficits, change in mood, difficulty with emotions, disruption with sleep patterns, and sensitivity to stimuli.

"It's like a jigsaw puzzle without a picture to follow," said Judy Block Linford, his mother. She said that years of evaluations by different doctors finally pointed to the injuries as a turning point for Linford.

“You start to put it all together and go, 'Oh my gosh. This all started then,'” she said.

Colter's mom described changes she observed immediately after the injuries. While her son used to be known for his debate skills and extreme focus, he was suddenly unable to focus on any subject.

The change resulted in Linford withdrawing from Washington State University multiple times on medical leave.

The Bellevue School District told KIRO 7 that staff could not speak to this lawsuit specifically, but pointed to the district website, which outlines their policy regarding concussions.

The district currently uses imPACT testing, a video-game-style evaluation to detect concussion symptoms. The site also stresses the importance of following Washington’s Lystedt Law, which passed in 2009 and requires medical clearance before a student can return to the field after having concussion symptoms.

Linford’s attorney, Fred Langer, helped create the Lystedt Law.

Langer said Linford was hesitant to file this suit, because he loves Bellevue football.

"He considers himself a Wolverine to this day," Langer said. But he said Linford also wants to protect future players, in hopes of improving the program.

In 2015, a Purdue study showed that more than half of high school football players suffer brain trauma but keep playing.

In October 2015, Kenny Bui, a football player at Evergreen High School, died after a serious injury during a game. His family said he suffered a traumatic brain injury.

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