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Paralyzed football player receives $1.3m in settlement from city

Union Leader Correspondent

November 19. 2017 10:41PM
Nashua High School North graduate Cooper Doucette speaks to his classmates during 2013 commencement exercises at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. (MARK BOLTON/UNION LEADER FILE)

NASHUA — A former high school football player paralyzed during a 2010 practice is receiving $1.3 million as part of a settlement agreement with the city.

Although the settlement between Cooper Doucette, 21, and the Nashua School District was reached in July, the terms of the agreement were not made public until last week.

Steve Bolton, the city’s legal counsel, provided a copy of the 12-page agreement to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

“While it is impossible to accurately predict the need for medical treatment, this settlement is based upon a good faith determination of the parties in order to resolve a disputed claim,” states the agreement, which stresses that the city denies any negligence in the matter.

According to the agreement, the city’s insurance company, American Alternative Insurance Corporation, will pay Doucette a combination of up-front cash and future periodic payments totalling $1.3 million.

A significant portion of that cash, about $737,972, will be paid to Doucette’s legal team at the law firm Nixon, Vogelman, Barry, Slawsky and Simoneau. Starting this past August, Doucette was set to receive $2,000 a month for the next 25 years for a total of about $562,000.

“It is understood and agreed to by the parties that this settlement is a compromise of a doubtful and disputed claim, and the payments are not to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of the (city), by whom liability is expressly denied,” states the agreement.

As part of the settlement, Doucette agrees to waive any future action against the school district or the city. According to the agreement, American Alternative Insurance Corp. is the liability insurer for the city, and the company is obligated to pay any injury claims covered by its policy.

According to the agreement, payments to Doucette cannot be accelerated or deferred.

The settlement agreement was reached after several months of mediation efforts.

Doucette previously sued the school district and former coaches Jason Robie and Donald Fournier, claiming that they neglected to demonstrate proper and safe tackling skills.

Attorney Lawrence Vogelman, legal representative for Doucette, says in court records that on the day of Doucette’s accident, no instruction was given by the two coaches about the risk of serious injury if tackling were done without keeping your head up.

It was the team’s first contact practice, and the first practice where the team wore pads in uniform when Doucette suffered a spinal cord injury on Aug. 14, 2010 at Nashua High School North.

According to court records, Doucette’s first attempt at a tackling drill resulted in his paralysis when he attempted to tackle a running back, placed his head down and collided head-on with the knee of the oncoming ball-carrier, resulting in a broken neck.

Doucette alleges that his injury was the result of negligence from the coaches responsible for his training and supervision; he was 15 at the time, and a member of Nashua North’s junior varsity football team.

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