Attorneys representing a Belt family allege that the defendant, Benefis Health System, purposefully destroyed evidence in the case. The lawsuit seeks damages in the case of Robert Back, a teenager who was cleared to play football despite a concussion, and suffered a serious injury that led to being paralyzed.
In September of 2014, Back collapsed while standing on the sidelines after halftime on the football field. He underwent an emergency craniotomy and was diagnosed with severe brain deficits that left him paralyzed. His stepmother, Shannon Back, now cares for him, and his only method of communication is with his eyes.
Athletic trainer Jessica Hansen had declared him fit to play. She is named in the suit as a responsible party for allegedly neglecting to properly examine him after he suffered a concussion.
In July of 2015, attorneys alerted Benefis Health System that they were planning to file suit, and they should begin preserving all evidence. The following March, the Back family did file suit, claiming that several parties were negligent in allowing Back to play after his brain injury.
When Benefis was informed of the lawsuit, they were expected to keep and file all correspondence relating to the case. But now, the plaintiff's attorneys allege that Benefis deleted important emails.
In an email from September 11, 2014, athletic trainer Jessica Hansen told Belt football coach Jeff Graham that Back was“ok to play concussion wise.” Despite the email coming from Hansen, a Benefis employee, Benefis never turned the email in as evidence. It wasn't until Shannon Back produced the email last year, with help from Coach Graham, that the email came to light.
Benefis attorneys defended the omission by saying they only conducted a search limited to emails containing “Robert Back.” That’s how the email slipped through the cracks. In turn, attorneys for Benefis are questioning the Back family, saying if they knew about the email all along, why didn't they bring it forward to submit as evidence?
Back's attorneys also claim there could be a number of unknown emails, texts, and messages regarding the events leading up to Back's injury.
In December 2017, Back's attorneys requested sanctions against Benefis relating to the “spoliation of evidence.” Judge John Kutzman has yet to make a decision on those sanctions. Trial is scheduled for March 5.