A Gallatin County District Court judge has enforced a $300,000 settlement in a lawsuit between the Three Forks School District and a former high school football player.
Michael Rouchleau and his parents, Kim and Joseph Rouchleau, sued the district in 2012, claiming that Michael had suffered a life-altering traumatic brain injury while playing football for Three Forks.
Attorneys on both sides of the case said they had reached a $300,000 settlement that the Rouchleaus had agreed to last year. However, the family claimed that Michael, 18, had changed his mind.
Three Forks School District attorneys asked District Judge John Brown to enforce the settlement agreement.
At a May hearing before Brown, three of Michael's attorneys testified that the Rouchleaus had agreed to the proposed settlement, but that outside interference and pressure from Michael's mother had changed his mind.
Michael denied that accusation, arguing instead that he had never agreed to the settlement.
In his order, however, Brown said he didn't find Michael's testimony credible and said the settlement was valid.
Per Brown's order, the claims will be dismissed once the Three Forks School District pays $300,000, of which Michael will receive $200,000.
The lawsuit said that during an August 2009 football practice, Michael and another player suffered concussions and were vomiting on the field after a head-to-head tackle. It was the second head collision for Michael that day, the lawsuit said.
Later that day, Michael was diagnosed with a concussion and ordered to not play football for 11 days, the lawsuit said. However, six days later coaches told him to run plays, during which he was knocked unconscious and carried off the field, according to the lawsuit.
The settlement will be paid for by the school district's insurance, attorneys said.
“We were pleased that the judge enforced the settlement. Judge Brown did the right thing,” said Michael Sand, Michael's attorney.
Sand said that testifying against Michael was a unique situation.
“It really puts us at odds with our client,” he said. But, he added, “a deal is a deal.”
David Dalthorp, attorney for the Three Forks School District, agreed with Sand and said he also believed Brown made the right call. However, Dalthorp added that he wouldn't have minded taking this case to trial.
“I think there's reasonable probability that the school district would have prevailed on liability,” Dalthorp said.