Football: News release from Agu family’s law firm

Here is the news release from Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, The Yerrid Law Firm And Jeffrey D. Murphy, Esq., announcing the wrongful-death lawsuit against the UC Regents in the death of former Cal football player Ted Agu:


Oakland, California, August 5, 2014

The parents of Ted Agu, who was a 21-year-old student athlete and a member of the

University of California Berkeley football team, filed a wrongful death lawsuit today against The

Regents of The University of California arising from Agu’s untimely death following a pre-

season conditioning drill with his football team. The plaintiffs, Ambrose and Emilia Agu, allege

that their son died because of the reckless and negligent behavior of UCB football trainers and

coaches who subjected Agu to a lethal conditioning drill for a player with known sickle cell trait.

On February 7, 2014, Agu was participating in a conditioning drill near Memorial

Stadium on the UCB campus. During the course of the conditioning drill, Agu experienced

dizziness, shortness of breath, loss of balance, and other signs of extreme fatigue that were

clearly symptomatic of the sickling process. Despite the symptoms which clearly could and

should have been observed, UCB coaches and trainers failed to immediately come to Agu’s

assistance. It was only after Agu struggled and encountered obvious difficulties for a significant

period of time that he was placed on a cart and taken back towards the stadium where he

collapsed for the last time. Emergency personnel transported Agu to Alta Bates Medical Center

in Berkeley where he was pronounced dead. The plaintiffs allege that Agu was placed in a

conditioning drill that was inappropriate and too extreme given his known medical condition.

At the time of Agu’s collapse, he was under the supervision of Cal Berkeley’s head

athletic trainer for football, Robert Jackson. Ironically, this is the very same Robert Jackson

who, prior to becoming employed by Cal Berkeley, was involved in a remarkably similar death

of another college football player. In 2008, Robert Jackson was the supervising athletic trainer

responsible for the welfare of Ereck Plancher, a 19-year-old wide receiver for the University of

Central Florida in Orlando. Like Agu, Plancher also carried the sickle cell trait and during pre-
season conditioning drills, he experienced nearly identical symptoms of distress as he struggled,

sickled and collapsed while under the supervision of Jackson. As with Agu, trainer Jackson

failed to intervene and allowed a struggling Plancher to continue the excessively difficult and

punishing drill that directly resulted in Plancher’s death. In 2011, Plancher’s family, represented

by Steve Yerrid and Jeff Murphy, took the case to a three week trial against UCF Athletics

Association, Inc., and obtained a jury verdict and final judgment (including, costs, fees and

interest awarded by the court) that is now almost $15 million. Currently, that case is on appeal to

the Florida Supreme Court.

“This is a senseless tragedy about an incredible young man. Ted was deeply loved and

respected by his family, friends and teammates. He was a leader and a motivator on and off the

field and a caring, supportive and loving son to his parents and brother to his siblings. This

lawsuit is about seeking justice for Ted and his family and educating our nation’s collegiate

athletic departments and their staff and coaches that they can’t turn a blind eye to student-

athletes like Ted who suffer from sickle cell trait and the lethal nature of that condition. We are

honored to represent his family in this lawsuit,” said attorney Brian Panish.

Added attorney Steve Yerrid, “We have assembled an outstanding legal team to represent

the Agu family and look forward to the journey ahead. Jeff and I are very pleased that our dear

friend Brian Panish and his preeminent California firm have agreed to act as co-counsel in taking

this to trial here in Alameda County. Ted Agu was a model student athlete and a great young

man. We look forward to revealing the truth and circumstances surrounding his tragic and

premature death. At the core of our dedication to obtaining justice for the Agu family is a desire

to put an end to the senseless, unnecessary deaths of young student-athletes like Ted. We intend

to do everything possible to effectuate positive changes that safeguard young student-athletes at

UCB, and reinforce that motivation in schools across the nation.”

In addition to his parents, Ted Agu was also survived by his three older sisters and older


Jeff Faraudo

  • acaldude

    This is a tragedy, no doubt, and we don’t know the facts. But words like these are why tort reform is necessary:

    > look forward to the journey ahead…
    > Jeff and I are very pleased that our dear friend Brian Panish…
    > At the core of our dedication to obtaining justice for the Agu family…

    Yeah, I don’t think so. This is all about the money for the lawyers. They make it sound like a vacation or a party, when in fact someone died. I’m sure they got a major chunk of the $15M in the other case. Feel bad for the family, as this surely won’t ease their pain.

    RIP Ted.

  • jvj

    The family is surely struggling with the idea that Agu’s death just happened with no one to blame. The lawyers are preying upon the family to try to assign blame or a “cause” that could have prevented their son’s death.

    It is just too difficult to accept that tragedies do happen at “random.”

    The only “journey” these attorney’s are looking to go on is the one to their bank to deposit the money they squeeze out of Cal.

    This makes Ted Agu’s death even more sad than it already is. The family is also cheapening themselves: “Our son died, we may as well get a payday out of this.”

  • BlueNGold

    Expect the Regents to aggressively defend this lawsuit and hire a high powered corporate firm to represent the U. Its going to come down to the medical evidence and what is accepted as the cause of death. Presumably the plaintiffs have a medical expert who will play up the sickle cell claim, but that expert will also have to discredit the autopsy report findings re the cause of death being thickening of the heart wall. Should be an interesting case.

  • Larry

    Sad all the way around.