Lawsuit filed over Hartsville football player's 2012 death

Ronald Rouse, a senior lineman at Hartsville HIgh School, died just days before his 19th birthday during the homecoming game on Oct. 5, 2012.
Ronald Rouse, a senior lineman at Hartsville HIgh School, died just days before his 19th birthday during the homecoming game on Oct. 5, 2012.
Family, friends and fellow students of Rouse gathered at Hartsville High School to remember him.
Family, friends and fellow students of Rouse gathered at Hartsville High School to remember him.

HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) – The family of the Hartsville High football player who collapsed and died during a game in 2012 has filed a wrongful death suit against the school, the football league, and several emergency organizations.

The parents of lineman Ronald Rouse, 18 at the time of his death, filed the wrongful death suit Thursday, seeking damages in an amount to be determined by a jury, against the Defendants: The South Carolina Board of Education, the Darlington County School Board, Hartsville High School, the South Carolina High School League, Lake Robinson Rescue Squad, Darlington County Emergency Preparedness, and Darlington County.

Rouse was playing in the school's homecoming football game in October 2012 when he suddenly collapsed on the sidelines. According to Audrey Childers, a spokeswoman for the Darlington County School District, Rouse was walking onto the field for the next defensive play. He got into his stance, but immediately stood up and signaled for a time out.

As Rouse was walking off of the field, he collapsed. Doctors, coaches, and athletic trainers all ran to his aide. They were able to revive him, but as he was walking to the sidelines he collapsed again.

He was taken to the hospital, but was declared dead at 8:45 p.m.

An autopsy report showed Rouse died from a fatal and sudden cardiac arrhythmia. The coroner said results show it was brought on by congenital enlarged heart. Doctors told the family that even with an EKG, Ronald would have died eventually from the heart condition. If they would have known, he may have lived longer. But he wouldn't have been able to continue to play football.

The wrongful death suit filed Thursday alleges gross negligence by the Defendants in causing Rouse's death, as well as negligent infliction of emotional distress on his parents.

The lawsuit claims that Rouse's death can be traced to a high school physical on May 15, 2012, which produced abnormal results, but nothing was done to address the findings. Then in the summer before his death, Rouse fainted while playing basketball.

"Both his coach and athletics trainer were aware of the fainting and yet nothing was done to address it," the suit claims.

According to the lawsuit, the Lake Robinson Rescue Squad had agreed to attend all Hartsville High School home football games, but they were not present the night Rouse died. It took EMS nine minutes to arrive on scene after the first 911 call, according to records. Rouse was dead by the time he arrived at the hospital.

The suit claims negligence, carelessness, and reckless disregard for the safety of Rouse on the part of the South Carolina Board of Education, the South Carolina High School League, the Darlington County School Board, the Lake Robinson Rescue Squad, and Darlington County.

As a direct result of the "negligent, careless, reckless, wanton, grossly negligent and wilful acts or inactions by the Defendants," Rouse's family has incurred funeral, burial and medical expenses, and emotional and physical distress.

The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial or alternate dispute resolution through mediation. The Defendants have 30 days to respond to the complaint.

WMBF News reached out to Darlington School District for comment, but district spokeswoman Audrey Childers said that they do not comment on pending litigation.

WMBF News reached out to the Lake Robinson Rescue Squad for comment, but representative Betty Tanner said she had not yet been notified of the lawsuit.

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