The question remains open of whether Robby Robinson is liable for what happened to a McIntosh County Academy football player under his supervision, as U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood ruled Friday against the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

In August 2016, concerns were raised about alleged hazing going on within the MCA football program in which older players would launch themselves at younger players during practice. It was described in the complaint as, “Such ‘hits’ consisted of one player, usually a senior player, intentionally ramming or tackling the targeted player, usually a freshman player, with great speed and force when the targeted player was not expecting the ‘hit,’ thus blindsiding the victim.”

The complaint alleges Robinson was told several times to get a handle on the hazing issue, including by the alleged victim’s mother — Courtney Ward — but on Aug. 30, 2016, the alleged victim was on the receiving end of one of these hits and suffered severe physical injuries that led to significant behavioral and emotional changes.

During questioning by Wood, through arguments made by attorneys for both Robinson and the plaintiffs, it appeared whether the case was to go forward hinged on the importance of a comment Robinson allegedly made to the student-athlete’s mother. In Paragraph 33 of the complaint, it states, “Ward spoke with Robinson to inquire why he had failed to address the threatened ‘hazing’ as he had previously assured her of the same. Robinson advised that J.E. needed to ‘toughen up’ and dismissed her complaints without further discussion.”

Counsel for Robinson argued that nothing in the complaint showed Robinson “intended to cause the student harm whatsoever,” and that there were no allegations of actual malice made. However, Wood pointed to Paragraph 70 of the complaint, which pairs the “toughen up” comment with the fact it occurred after the alleged victim suffered the described injuries while under Robinson’s supervision.

In ruling against the motion to dismiss, Wood said the argument by the plaintiffs contains a plausible claim, and that the complaint plausibly shows intent to injure. Wood added that a written, detailed order would be forthcoming.

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