A university in Kentucky has agreed to pay $14m to the family of a wrestler who died of heat stroke after he begged for water during training.
Grant Brace, 20, died in August 2020 after sprinting up and down a steep hill multiple times. His lawyers said coaches refused to allow him water.
Two coaches named in the suit allegedly created an “atmosphere of fear of intimidation” on the team.
The University of the Cumberlands said it hoped the deal would give closure. But it maintained that it could have defeated a lawsuit had it proceeded to trial.
“We sincerely hope that resolving this matter early in the legal process will offer the Brace family a measure of peace and healing,” university chancellor Jerry Jackson said in a statement.
The lawsuit had said that Brace, a native of Louisville, became “profoundly disoriented” after the difficult practice at an area of the campus known as “Punishment Hill”.
Brace was diagnosed with ADHD and narcolepsy, forcing him to take medications that require proper hydration, especially during exercise.
Despite his medical needs, the lawsuit said that two coaches would mock him when he asked for a water break, saying: “Do you think you are special and are allowed more water?”
On the day of his death, Brace completed numerous sprints and then “sat down out of exhaustion”, the lawsuit said.
After being told that he would be kicked off the team, he is said to have performed an additional run to the top of the hill before stopping and saying: “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.”
“Suffering from heat stroke, Grant begged ‘I need water, somebody help me,'” the lawsuit said, adding that he told people that he felt like he was dying and was speaking in gibberish phrases.
Coaches screamed at him after the team returned indoors and he fled the wrestling room, the lawsuit said. He searched for a working water fountain, but collapsed and died before he could find one.
A university spokesperson said the university believed that it could have defeated the lawsuit, “but the legal process would have been long, difficult and costly, ending years from now in a trial with an uncertain outcome”.
“The university made the decision to settle the case now in a manner it hopes will respect the Brace family’s tremendous loss.”
The university will also participate in a heat-illness awareness training programme and will help raise awareness for heat-related injuries, the spokesperson added.