Judge dismisses lawsuit against school district

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Last Thursday, 15th Circuit Court Judge the Honorable Anthony Monzingo dismissed a lawsuit filed by the parents of Jeffery Dixon, a former Picayune Memorial High School baseball player, against the Picayune School District.

According to court transcripts, Mozingo said the parents of Jeffery Dixon, the plaintiff, failed to establish a case that showed the coaches or the school district, the defendants, were aware of the ritual of a senior player punching a freshman player before each baseball game.

Dixon’s parents filed the lawsuit against the Picayune School District after a senior player, J.D. Stockstill, punched Dixon in the chest before a baseball game on April 19, 2011. Dixon said in his testimony that he was chosen by a senior player to stand in the middle of team’s huddle and get punched in the chest. When Dixon refused, he said in his testimony that another player held his hands behind his back while Stockstill punched him.

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After being punched, Dixon lost consciousness and required medical treatment. While original reports say Dixon had a seizure, testimony from various witnesses and statements from legal counsel showed he didn’t experience a seizure.

Dixon and other players also testified that it was a pre-game ritual for a senior player to punch a freshman player in the chest before each varsity baseball game. There was dispute between the testimonies whether the ritual involved freshman volunteering or being chosen by a senior player.

The school district is “not immune from liability if it knew or in this case the coaches knew or reasonably should have known about the seniors’ conduct toward the freshman players,” Monzingo said.

Monzingo went onto say to Dixon’s lawyer ”your clients are going to say that they know their son inside and out before this and it’s wrecked his world, and they expected these coaches to protect their son, then how can they blame the coaches for not knowing if they didn’t know? I mean I think that’s a logical fair question.”

Mozingo went on to explain why school districts and its employees would be immune from these situations.

“… the purpose or the policy behind sovereign immunity provided by the Tort Claims Act is that schools, coaches, administrators don’t have resources to fight litigation such as this.” Mozingo said. “That’s why the law, the legislature, provided coaches, who are standing in the place of parents … now have been vilified and they’ve been accused of criminal behavior, yet the people that have accused them of it can’t even say that they knew about it beforehand.”

Mozingo said while the plaintiff was able to establish the long lasting effects the incident caused the Dixon family, he couldn’t rule in their favor.

“I wanted these plaintiffs to have their days in court to lay out their case, but there is nothing, nothing whatsoever, not even a scintilla of evidence, even viewing the evidence in a floodlight favorable to them, that there was any knowledge by anyone at that school of any tradition or ritual or hazing of freshmen by senior baseball players,” Monzingo said.

The transcript ends with Mozingo’s final judgment on the case, which states, “So not only does the Court dismiss all the claims against these defendants and the District, but assesses costs of the case to the plaintiffs.”