Lawsuit puts school merger on hold

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

WHEATLAND -- A proposed merger between Grant and Wheatland schools is on hold because of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Wheatland High School football player injured four years ago.

If the Wheatland school district is added to the list of defendants and the defendants are found liable, the combined district of Grant and Wheatland would have to pay damages.

The 1997 injury to Wheatland football player Adrian Regier resulted in a lawsuit filed in 2001. Regier suffered a concussion during a game in Culbertson and was transported first to Community Hospital of McCook and then to Lincoln General Hospital. A doctor at Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney declined to admit Regier, according to documents filed in the lawsuit.

Regier was paralyzed from the injury and suffered what appears to be permanent loss of speech, vision and control of his arms and legs.

In January 2001, Regier's guardian filed suit against the McCook and Kearney hospitals, McCook Clinic and McCook doctors, Corrine Phillips-Ward and Elizabeth Edwards.

In November 2002, Phillips-Ward, Edwards and the McCook Clinic asked that the Wheatland school district be added to the list of defendants.

Wheatland school attorney Kelley Baker is preparing arguments that the school should not be included. A judge's decision is likely by the end of the February, but, pending appeals, a final decision could be a year or more away.

The petition was first filed in Buffalo County district court, by later transferred to Red Willow County district court.

If the defendants, including Wheatland, are found liable, and if Wheatland and Grant have merged and formed a new district, the resulting new district would be required to pay damages.

Regier's petition asks for compensation for injuries, medical expenses, long-term care and pain and suffering. Damages could amount to millions of dollars, according to Grant principal Kirk Russell.

The Grant and Wheatland school boards have not officially declared intentions to merge, but, according to the North Platte Telegraph, they had planned to do so by Jan 15. The merger would have started during the summer of 2003.

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel reported both school boards have agreed to continue to work on merger details, but to wait until the court case is resolved to finalize the merger.

Grant and Wheatland cooperate on sports and activities such as band and chorus.

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