A D.C. Superior Court jury awarded $1.5 million yesterday to a former Anacostia High School football player who claimed he lost the use of his arm after his coach put him in a game knowing he was injured.
Attorneys for Carl R. Greene, 26, whose nerves were severed in his left arm while he was making a tackle in 1974, said the jury award sets a precedent here for holding a coach, in his capacity as a city employe, responsible for the medical fitness of one of his players. The city will be required to pay the award to Greene.
Greene had contended that his left arm was first injured during a practice and that coach Wyman Colona negligently put him in the lineup two weeks later for Anacostia's homecoming game against Spingarn High School, in which Greene's arm was permanently paralyzed.
Colona contended at the trial that Greene had never reported a serious injury prior to that game.
"I'm just so excited," Greene said after yesterday's verdict. "It was the principle of the thing, them trying to deny that they encouraged me to play hurt. I came to play and gave of myself and I was abused. All those other children playing out there run the same risk."
Greene, who now works as an accountant for the D.C. lottery board, had asked for $1 million based on his loss of a college football scholarship, his loss of possible future earnings as a professional football player, and his mental suffering as a result of the injury.
The judge instructed the jury to consider only general damages for Greene's loss of the use of his arm and for mental anguish and psychological damage as a result of the injury. The jury returned with the award of $1.5 million.
The attorney for the city in the case, Joyce Notarius, declined to comment on the verdict, which the city is expected to appeal.
Colona, who was head football coach at Anacostia for eight years before retiring after the 1974 season, also declined to comment.
Otto Jordan, director of athletic programs for the D.C. public schools, said the jury award will probably prompt a reevaluation of school policies regarding injured players.
Jordan said that the central issue in the case--whether Colona knew the full extent of Greene's injury after a practice--remains a problem for coaches, who are required to have players see a physician when they are hurt.
"One would expect a professional to recognize when a youngster is injured," Jordan said. "You cannot operate if you don't know something is happening."
Anacostia's athletic director, Allen Chin, testified during the trial that school officials have "no means to ensure" that students injured on the playing field ever receive medical attention.
Greene's attorney, John W. Karr, argued that adolescent players could not be held responsible for evaluating their own injuries, or determining when they were physically ready to play football.
Greene testified that he told Colona of "burning and tingling" in his arm after the injury during a practice. Colona testified that Greene had reported only a bruise.
According to Greene, the original injury occurred during a practice a few days after Anacostia played its first 1974 regular conference game. Greene, who played as a linebacker, told the jury it was nearly dark when an offensive player broke through the line with the ball, and Greene tackled him.
Colona testified that he did not hold practices in the dark and that practices during the regular season did not include tackling.
According to Greene, Colona placed him in subsequent games after putting extra padding on the injured left shoulder. Colona said the padding had been placed on the right shoulder to protect a bruise.
Greene and former defensive teammates, as well as the team's defensive coach at the time, testified that Colona discouraged reporting of injuries.
Other former players and coaches who testified for the city said Colona had the safety of his players uppermost in his mind and never would have put Greene in the lineup had he known he was seriously injured.
A medical expert who testified on Greene's behalf said the nerves in the arm could not have been severed unless Greene had been injured previously.
A medical expert for the city testified that there was no indication Greene had suffered any earlier damage to the arm.
City officials said at the trial that school medical records that might have documented an earlier injury can no longer be found.