Former student appeals judgment

Mai Hoang

A former Western student is appealing to the Kentucky Board of Claims to receive more damages for injuries he suffered three years ago during a physical education class.

A board officer ruled on Aug. 23 that 24-year-old Chris Hisle was entitled to $100,000 to compensate him for injuries that occurred in March 1999 during a jumping test in Life Fitness and Wellness. Now he’s asking for more.

Although Bethany Garrity, Hisle’s instructor, demonstrated the jump, the Board of Claims ruled that Hisle’s injuries were caused by the instructor’s negligence to conduct the activity properly.

The jumping test consisted of three standing jumps where students would be in a crouched position with arms extended backward and then jump forward as far as possible.

“WKU failed to provide a safe facility or to supervise the inexperienced teacher,” the board said in its findings. “The teacher’s failure to provide a mat covering the concrete surface, as well as her failure to warn of possible injury and to require warm-up or stretching exercises, created an unsafe and hazardous environment.”

An officer for the Board of Claims ruled that the accident left Hisle with permanent injury to his right foot and permanent nerve damage in both legs.

Western, represented by State Attorney General D. Brent Irwin, filed an appeal Sept. 27 stating that there was a “lack of substantial evidence” that the activity and Western employees were responsible for Hisle’s injuries.

Brent Brennestuhl, who represented Western in the case until August, said he did not agree with the officer’s ruling.

“We presented evidence that the jump exercise was standard physical education curriculum and was part of the textbook exercise,” he said. “That was a rare and unforeseeable consequence of a standing jump.”

Hisle’s attorney, Pam Bratcher, filed a cross-appeal Oct. 9 in response to Western. The cross-appeal asks that Hisle receive more damages because the maximum amount that the Board of Claims can award to a plaintiff was recently increased by state officials from $100,000 to $200,000.

In the cross-appeal, Bratcher asked for $129,392 in damages to compensate Hisle for medical expenses and lost wages.

“I am confident we will prevail on appeal and that the findings of the board of claims will be affirmed,” she said.

Bratcher said that the injury caused Hisle to withdraw from school, and he can no longer stand for long periods of time. The injury has also limited Hisle’s job opportunities, she said.

“He hasn’t been able to hold a job because he has pain in his lower legs,” she said. “Most labor jobs are not open to him now. He doesn’t have the strength in his legs.”

Hisle said a few months after the accident, he attempted to make up missed work and return to Western, but he was later told that he couldn’t return because he was unable to make up the assignments.

Over three years after his accident, Hisle is now living in Dayton, Ohio. He said he moved there two months ago to seek new job opportunities.

“I feel like I would be able to branch out a little more here,” he said. “There’s more I can do here than I can do in Kentucky.”

Hisle said he recently got a job as a greeter at a restaurant in Dayton, but he said he has bigger goals, despite the limitations of his injury . He still dreams of being a physical trainer.

“I would like to go back to school,” he said. “If I could get what happened to me behind me, I could see myself going back.”

Attorneys for both parties will go in front of Warren Circuit Court judge John Minton Oct. 28 to schedule briefings to argue their positions.

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]