Football Coach Sued for Not Breaking Up Locker Room Fight That Injured Teen
EMERSON HILL — A Susan Wagner High School football player's jaw was broken when he tried to break up a locker room brawl as the coach did nothing, the teen's parents claim in a lawsuit they've filed against the longtime head coach, school and city.
Richard Palestri and Eileen Pflunger of Lighthouse Hill say varsity football coach Alan Paturzo acted negligently by not intervening to protect Richard Palestri, 15.
Players brawled in the locker room after a weight-training session on March 16, 2013. Palestri, an offensive lineman for the team, stepped in to break it up and was hit in the face, which dislocated his jaw, according to the lawsuit.
"A fight broke out amongst members of the football team which negligently, carelessly and recklessly put ... [Palestri] in a position to attempt to break up the fight between his teammates," the suit says.
"[Palestri was] struck in the face and sustained multiple fractures and dislocation of his jaw as a result of the defendants' failure to provide any supervision in the subject locker room."
Palestri had to have his jaw wired shut and, a year later, is still paying for medical care to treat permanent injuries to his jaw, according to the lawsuit.
After the incident, Palestri posted pictures on Facebook of his feeding tube and face in the hospital bed.
"How I eat lmfao!," he wrote on his Facebook page under a picture of his feeding tube.
Palestri posted several updates about hospital visits and feeling sick, and then in July posted that he re-broke his jaw playing football.
Palestri's parents, who did not respond to requests for comment, say Paturzo and staff failed to supervise the team for an "unreasonably long period of time" and did not stop danger to students.
Paturzo, coach of the Wagner Falcons football team since 1984, has won several championships with the team and leads the Public Schools Athletic League for career wins in football. He came under scrutiny in 1998 after a 14-year-old player for the team died after an unofficial preseason practice.
A report from the school's special commissioner of investigation found Marlon Albert Hurley's death wasn't caused by the workouts scheduled by Paturzo, but the SCI scolded him for hosting the unofficial practices before students were given medical evaluations.
Court records show the suit was first filed in April 2013 and the family's attorney, Deborah Trerotola, filed a summons against the city last month for failure to respond to the original claim.
A spokeswoman for the DOE said the city has received a notice of claim on the suit and said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Paturzo could not be reached for comment.