Ereck Plancher trial: Doctor says sickle cell trait can't cause death
UCF Athletics Association continues presenting its case on day 13 of Ereck Plancher trial
Steinberg, an expert hired by the UCF Athletics Association, told the jury Wednesday afternoon there are no rigorous medical studies proving sickle cell trait can cause sudden death in athletes.
He went on to testify Orange County medical examiner Joshua Stephany's certified autopsy report stating Plancher died from complications of sickle cell trait was incorrect.
Plancher collapsed and died following offseason conditioning drills at the UCF football complex on March 18, 2008. Stephany told the jury last week extreme stress caused Plancher's red blood cells to sickle, or warp, and quickly damaged his major organs.
When Steinberg was asked for his opinion of National Athletic Trainers' Association guidelines for treating athletes with sickle cell trait, Steinberg responded, "generally, it's nonsense."
A task force of about 40 athletic trainers and physicians collaborated to write the NATA guidelines. The NCAA adopted similar guidelines.
When he was asked why UCF tested for sickle cell trait before Plancher's death, Steinberg responded, "They probably did it because the NCAA recommended it, but the NCAA's recommendation was ill founded."
During cross examination, Steinberg agreed it had more than 10 years since he had done a research on sickle cell trait. He added that he was more focused on sickle cell disease and had read literature on the subject of sickle cell trait.
Circuit Judge Robert M. Evans dismissed the jury at about 6:20 p.m. and informed them he planned to start the proceedings at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
After the jury left the room, Evans gave the attorneys an update on the amount of time left for questioning witnesses, objections and closing arguments.
The judge reminded the attorneys that for months leading up to the trial, they stated it would take three weeks to the try case. Evans said the attorneys promised the jury they would only be serving for three weeks. After an especially combative first week, Evans gave the two sides an equal amount of time to present the remainder of their case.
Evans said the Plancher family attorneys have five minutes and 19 seconds remaining, while UCFAA attorneys have two hours and four minutes remaining.
The judge said he spent his lunch break reviewing appeal court decisions, paying special attention to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. He stated he risked the case being overturned on appeal if both sides were not allowed to present closing arguments, so he announced he planned to give them 60 additional minutes apiece solely for closing arguments. He said they could add any time they did not use to question witnesses for their closing arguments as long as it did not exceed 90 minutes.
UCFAA attorneys said the time limits altered the way they had already presented their witnesses and asked if the extra time could be cut to 30 minutes apiece. The judge denied the request.
He stated once the Plancher family attorneys' time is exhausted, they will only be allowed to raise objections. They will not be allowed to cross examine witnesses.
Evans expects to send give the jury instructions and send the group to deliberate midday Thursday.
He previously ruled the Plancher family attorneys would have to prove to a jury O'Leary ordered the water and athletic trainers be removed from the fieldhouse to earn punitive damages.
Before the jury considers punitive damages, it is scheduled to decide whether UCFAA is guilty of negligence for failing to do everything possible save Plancher's life.
If the jury decides UCFAA is guilty of negligence Thursday afternoon, the attorneys would present arguments Friday debating whether the Planchers are eligible for punitive damages. The jury then be sent back to deliberation.