A year and a half after 16-year-old Patrick Clancy was hospitalized following a soccer practice on a blistering July day, he filed a $2 million civil suit against the coach, Stuart Pierson, and Matthew Pearman, the Monticello High School athletic director.
“The rules were in place that day, and they were not followed,” says Emily Clancy, Patrick’s mother.
The 8am practice July 21, 2017, was on a National Weather Service heat advisory day. By the time Patrick finished practice at 10am on a synthetic turf field, which can up the heat index 35 to 55 degrees, according to the Virginia High School League, he had stopped sweating, had a headache, and could barely talk.
His brother Ryan, who also was at the practice and felt ill, drove Patrick home. His mother knew immediately that Patrick was in trouble because he couldn’t stand, he was throwing up, and his fingers turned blue. When a shower and cold bath failed to cool him down, she took him to the emergency room.
Emily Clancy is convinced that if she hadn’t been home, Patrick would have died.
And the response she says she got from Pierson, who no longer coaches, was to blame Patrick for not bringing enough water.
The suit alleges negligence and gross negligence, contending the defendants had a duty to Patrick to conduct the practice safely, and “they failed to do so.”
Pierson and Pearman did not respond to phone calls from C-VILLE.
Among the guidelines the suit claims the defendants violated were having no trainer present, no cold water, no shade, no rest breaks, and not taking into account how the synthetic turf would jack up the heat index.
Earlier this year, Albemarle County schools developed heat management guidelines for outdoor activities in hot weather, which include training for coaches, players, and parents, and measuring heat and humidity on playing surfaces during hot days.
However, Emily Clancy says Virginia High School League guidelines already were in place on July 21, but weren’t heeded.
Patrick and Ryan suffered permanent physical and mental scars from that day, exacerbated by the bullying they experienced at Monticello High, says their mother. “No one from the county ever apologized or even asked [Patrick] if he was okay.”
Ryan graduated and Patrick is now at a different school.
Both teens are “100 percent” behind the lawsuit, says Clancy. “Patrick said, ‘Mom, we have to do this because if we don’t, someone is going to die.’”
Deaths from the effects of heat are uncommon but they do occur. In June, University of Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair, 19, died of heatstroke.
And in 2005, Albemarle High graduate Kelly Watt, a cross country runner, suffered heatstroke after running on a sweltering July day, and died shortly afterward. A race is held every year in his memory. This year’s is Saturday, November 17, at Panorama Farms.
Says attorney Lloyd Snook, “We hope, through this lawsuit, to make everyone in the central Virginia athletic community understand what our athletic departments must do to prevent these deaths.”
Correction October 30: The lawsuit is for $2 million total, not $1 million as earlier reported.
Correction November 13: Jordan McNair died June 13.