The attorney representing Shykem "Shaka" Lawrence, the Woodrow Wilson High senior who was paralyzed while making a tackle in a football scrimmage in August, has taken a step toward filing a lawsuit that would seek $10 million in damages.
A 90-day notice letter was sent to 18 potential defendants in the case, attorney Ron Gilbert said last night.
Gilbert said that in order to keep alive the possibility of filing a lawsuit, the notice had to be sent within 90 days of Lawrence's 18th birthday.
Lawrence turned 18 on Jan. 7, and the certified letters were received on March 20, Gilbert said.
The attorney said he was unsure whether a lawsuit would be filed.
"We have to have a factual foundation and have to see if we have enough information," he said. "A lot of times, lawsuits like this don't work. I won't file a frivolous lawsuit."
Added Gilbert, a Michigan-based lawyer who is working in conjunction with Michael Dillon, a Jersey City lawyer: "Shaka is just trying to find his way and graduate with his class. That's what's important now."
The lawsuit being considered claims that "numerous acts of omission" contributed to the injury, "including, but not limited to, inadequate/improper coaching instructions."
According to a source familiar with the situation, the potential lawsuit also says that improper supervision and the improper providing of equipment played a role in the injury.
Lawrence suffered a broken neck while playing safety in a scrimmage at Eastern on Aug. 25. He spent 71/2 months in the hospital and is paralyzed from the neck down.
The NJSIAA, the governing body of New Jersey high school sports, is named as a potential defendant, along with several coaches and administrators from Woodrow Wilson and Eastern, including Philip Freeman, president of Camden's Board of Education.
Woodrow Wilson High is in Camden.
Freeman said he was disappointed that a lawsuit was being considered.
"I have not received any notification, but our solicitor will be on this," he said. "We are doing all we possibly can to help Mr. Lawrence and we will continue to do all we can to see that he is cared for.
"It's unfortunate that they decided to take this to lawyers."
Alvinita Lawrence, Shykem's mother, said she has insurance that covers $5 million of her son's medical expenses. Gilbert said Lawrence also has a $1 million disability policy.
Gilbert said he did not expect to make a decision on filing the lawsuit until after Lawrence graduates from Wilson on June 21. Lawrence is expected to be one of the featured speakers at the ceremony.