A former Williamsville South student who claims to have contracted skin herpes at a high school wrestling tournament last year has sued his opponent, three high schools and the doctors who cleared the other student to wrestle him.
The top-seeded wrestler beat his Iroquois High School opponent in five minutes to win his weight class, earning him a spot in the state qualifier tournament. But his three winning matches at the Section VI Class A championship wrestling tournament at Lockport’s Starpoint High School in February 2011 turned out to be his last competition after the herpes gladiatorum virus put a hold on him.
The Iroquois student knew he was infected with the herpes virus and concealed an active outbreak, according to the lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court.
As a result, the Williamsville wrestler contracted the virus from him and became sick, the lawsuit said.
The young man, who has since graduated from Williamsville South, said he suffered pain and embarrassment and will continue to suffer from the virus for the rest of his life.
His lawsuit listed sores, headaches, scarring, dizziness and sleep disturbance, among other complaints.
The former Williamsville South wrestler and his parents are also suing the other student’s parents, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, as well as Williamsville South, Starpoint and Iroquois high schools.
The lawsuit alleges that the Iroquois student’s parents knew their son was infected and allowed him to compete in the tournament anyway.
The lawsuit alleges that coaches and officials at the high schools allowed the infected wrestler to participate in the tournament “even though he had obvious open wounds, rashes and/or blisters on his body.”
The high schools put the Williamsville wrestler “in imminent hazard” by failing to provide properly trained coaches, physicians and other individuals to see to the safety and well-being of students and take reasonable steps to avoid the incident, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said a physician who treated the Iroquois student before the wrestling tournament filled out a medical release form allowing him to wrestle.
Another doctor, who served as the tournament physician, performed skin checks on both wrestlers but failed to properly examine the Iroquois wrestler and allowed him to participate, according to the lawsuit.
In court papers, the Iroquois student denied that he knew he had an active outbreak and his parents also denied knowing their son was infected on the date of the tournament.
The Iroquois student’s doctor, in court papers, said any injuries suffered by the former Williamsville South wrestler “were not brought about by any negligence or malpractice” by the doctor.
Lawyers Jacob A. Piorkowski, who represents the former Williamsville South athlete, and Leonard Berkowitz, who represents the Iroquois wrestler, both declined to comment on the lawsuit.
A pretrial conference before State Supreme Court Justice Patrick H. NeMoyer is scheduled for next month.
A week after the wrestling tournament in Lockport, the Erie County Health Department issued an advisory about several cases of skin infection among the high school wrestlers who participated in the tournament. The highly transmissible herpes skin infection is common among wrestlers, the advisory noted. The department advised health care providers to be vigilant in examining and treating wrestlers.
Wrestlers from a dozen high schools competed in the tournament at Starpoint.
The athletic association replied in court papers that the wrestler, who was 18 at the time, knew the hazards and dangers and assumed the risks in participating in the tournament. The association also cited a signed waiver. The association also claimed as a defense that any injuries also were caused in whole or in part by the Williamsville wrestler’s own negligence.
Courts in another part of the state have previously dealt with a similar lawsuit.
A high school wrestler from Long Island sued his opponent and the school district after allegedly contracting herpes during a wrestling match. In that case, a trial judge denied the school district’s request to dismiss the case without a trial, but an appeals court in Brooklyn reversed that ruling and dismissed the complaint. By engaging in a sport, a participant consents to “commonly appreciated risks,” the appeals court said.
“By its nature, wrestling involves close contact between participants, and it follows that diseases transmitted through skin-to-skin contact may result,” the appellate court said in its 2009 ruling.
The Long Island school district and wrestling coach informed students about the risk of contracting herpes and had distributed a packet of information about the virus and other infections.
The former Williamsville South wrestler and his parents said in their lawsuit that a prudent person would not have competed against the Iroquois wrestler if fully informed of the risks.
Because he was not properly informed of the risks of wrestling his opponent at the tournament, the Williamsville wrestler said, he did not give a valid informed consent, according to the lawsuit.