UCF negligent in Ereck Plancher's death

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A jury has found that the University of Central Florida's Athletic Association was negligent in a football player's 2008 death and awarded his parents $10 million.

The decision came after about five hours of deliberation Thursday night in the wrongful death trial of Ereck Plancher, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Plancher collapsed and died following conditioning drills at the school's football complex in March 2008. Orange County medical examiner Joshua Stephany and three experts hired by Plancher family attorneys testified he died from complications of sickle cell trait.

The jurors found the athletic association was negligent and failed to do everything possible to save Plancher's life. It entered the amount of damages it believed should be awarded to Plancher's parents, Enock and Gisele Plancher. The total was $5 million apiece.

The jury also decided there was no "clear and convincing evidence" that UCF's athletic association was guilty of gross negligence and determined it should not face punitive damages.

"If there's one message that we have sent very loudly and clearly, the welfare of any student-athlete is at the top of any football program," Plancher family attorney Steve Yerrid said. "And that's how to have a winning program."

UCF spokesman Grant Heston said the program continues to mourn Plancher's death but the athletic association will appeal the decision.

"We believe the appeals court will side with us," Heston said. "We feel that from pretrial rulings to ruling during the trial that there's an ample of appeal opportunity and we strongly believe that this will be a quick process because it's very clear that this was the wrong decision."

The jury's decision not to award punitive damages "shows what we have in place works" and the school continues to do everything possible to protect its athletes, Heston said.