West Virginia Record

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Berkeley Co. softball league settles sliding lawsuit

By John O'Brien | Jul 24, 2013

MARTINSBURG – A girl who sued a youth softball league over a broken ankle she sustained while sliding into third base has settled her lawsuit.

On July 3, a dismissal order was entered in Courtney Roberts’ lawsuit against the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Softball League, which was accused of not maintaining one of its fields at Charlotte Prather Park and forcing her to slide when she did not want to.

The order notes a confidential settlement reached between the parties ahead of an Aug. 13 mediation deadline and Oct. 1 trial.

In March, the volunteer coach running the sliding drills, Courtni Williams, was dismissed as a defendant.

Roberts filed her lawsuit in March 2011, alleging she didn’t want to participate in a sliding drill and that she’d never slid before. Court records show that she told the coaches present that she did not feel comfortable sliding, and on her first run to third base she went in standing up.

On the second try, a Williams asked Roberts if she wanted to try sliding, and Roberts crushed her left ankle, tibia and fibula and has undergone several surgeries. She was also alleging that the condition of the field was substandard.

The plaintiffs never filed a response to the league’s motion for summary judgment, filed earlier this year.

“Unfortunately, Courtney suffered one of the injuries that occasionally happen in sports such as softball,” says the motion, filed by Martinsburg attorneys Richard McCune and Alex Tsiatsos.

“Courtney’s parents chose to sue the volunteer league and its young, volunteer, unpaid, college-age coach, claiming that their daughter has lost millions of dollars because they allege she cannot be the specific kind of nurse that she wanted to be.”

Roberts alleged that the injury will prevent her from achieving her goal of becoming a registered nurse. She had been on track to complete pre-nursing course work at James Rumsey Technical Institute in Hedgesville and had been accepted into the nursing program at Blue Ridge Community College, but changed her mind.

During her final exam, Roberts says she experienced ankle and back pain so severe she decided not to attend nursing school.

“If one difficult day is enough to discard a lifelong career goal, how speculative were the career earnings to begin with?” the motion says.

“The plaintiff’s sudden decision that Courtney cannot go to nursing school risks treating Courtney as though she were crippled. But Courtney is not crippled. She walks all day at school and can drive and take care of herself and does not consider herself disabled.”

Stephen Skinner, a Democratic member of the House of Delegates and a Charles Town attorney represented Roberts.

Judge Gray Silver wrote in a May 22 order to defer ruling on the summary judgment motion while discovery continued. The deadline for discovery was Aug. 27.

The motion for summary judgment alleged Roberts’ chiropractor, three weeks before the accident, had told her not to do anything strenuous for two weeks to a month.

Roberts and her parents “voluntarily participated in a sport in which they knew that broken ankles were possible from sliding,” the motion says.

“Broken ankles are an inherent risk in playing softball. West Virginia law therefore bars their recovery for any resulting injuries.”

Another notable aspect of the case was a former expert witness for the defense who was arrested on heroin-related charges.

The expert was former Martinsburg High softball coach Calvin Anthony Russ. He was allegedly in a car when a confidential police informant purchased $50 of heroin from Russ’ girlfriend Kayla Bell.

He was arraigned in September on felony charges of delivery of heroin and conspiracy to deliver heroin.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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