A former College of Charleston women’s basketball player is taking legal action against the school for her treatment after collapsing from heat stroke during a team training exercise.
McLeod Law Group filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Zoe Wallis against the College of Charleston for what it called “gross negligence” by women’s basketball coach Candice Jackson and her staff.
The lawsuit stems from a August 2014 team practice where Wallis suffered an extreme heat stroke and fell unconscious. The complaint claims the incident caused serious organ damage including damage to her liver and kidneys.
“Zoe is determined to stand up for herself and other student athletes,” Wallis’ attorney W. Mullins McLeod, Jr., stated in a release. “I hope this lawsuit enables her to return to the College of Charleston and bring reform to the Women’s basketball program at the College.”
The lawsuit states Wallis was required to run five miles across the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to Mount Pleasant and then back to Charleston for a team building and “mental toughness” exercise where team members were not allowed to stop running. Wallis collapsed during the mandatory bridge run after what the complaint insists were multiple attempts to inform the coaches she was having trouble and needed to stop. The complaint further claims that Coach Jackson yelled that Wallis was weak. It also claims Jackson ordered other players to pick up the unresponsive Wallis and carry her over the finish line.
The complaint also claims another coach physically put her hands on Wallis and pushed her from behind causing Wallis to fall again to the ground. At this point, the lawsuit states Wallis was suffering from severe hyperthermia and had lost consciousness.
Wallis said that no one called 911 and she was taken to a local hospital by car. When Wallis arrived she was admitted to the ER with an internal body temperature of 104.6 degrees, was found to be tachycardic with a heart rate of 159, and was suffering severe metabolic acidosis, acute renal failure, and electrolyte abnormalities. Wallis was admitted to an intensive care unit and remained in the hospital for two days before being released with physical restrictions.
The complaint argues Coach Jackson and her assistants were grossly negligent in conducting a dangerous training session in complete disregard to Wallis’ health and well-being.
Wallis eventually withdrew from the team in 2015 and said the College of Charleston revoked her scholarship. The lawsuit claims that violated NCAA rules as well as CofC’s own Grant-in-Aid Contract. She now attends a local community college back in her home state of Missouri.
“I really miss my Charleston family and I wake up each day wishing I was still at the College and able to play basketball again,” Wallis said in a statement. “I paid a very heavy price to be a part of CofC’s Women’s Basketball Team and the Coach’s actions took away my basketball but she shouldn’t be able to take.”
College of Charleston spokesman Mike Robertson said the school does not comment on pending litigation.
Kimberly Washington filed this report