Jury awards verdict to family after death of teenager at Florida athletic academy

Location: Manatee County, Florida

Plaintiff: Cristina Chalita-Cisneros, on behalf of the estate of Christian Chalita
Defendant: IMG Academies, Dr. Joseph Soler and nurse Carol Tomlinson
Amount: $1.5 million verdict
Alleged Injuries: Breach of fiduciary duty and wrongful death in a case where an elite sports academy failed to properly screen, assess and evaluate a minor child’s candidacy to enroll and participate in its programs.

Description: A jury found IMG Academies, an internationally-known athletic training facility and school, partially responsible for the death of a 16-year-old student and returned a $1.5 million verdict for his estate. 

Christian Chalita collapsed on a treadmill and died in 2004. His mother, Cristina Chalita-Cisneros, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against IMG Academies, Dr. Joseph Soler and nurse Carol Tomlinson.

Wilkes & McHugh attorneys argued that IMG officials failed to ensure Christian was physically fit enough to endure its rigorous programs, and Soler and Tomlinson failed to properly evaluate him and diagnose his heart condition.

“Had IMGA officials, Dr. Joseph Soler and nurse Carol Yarosz Tomlinson simply fulfilled the basic responsibilities of their positions, Christian Chalita likely still would be alive,” Bennie Lazzara said.

The jury found the defendants 54 percent at fault (18 percent IMG Academies, 18 percent Dr. Joseph Soler, 18 percent Nurse Carol Tomlinson), and found Christian’s mother to be 46 percent at fault.

In an extremely rare occurrence, the jury sent a handwritten note that they had been deeply moved by the facts. They did not want Christian to be forgotten and asked for a scholarship to be setup in Christian’s name.

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