BATON ROUGE – An unusual lawsuit against the University of Southern Mississippi involves a former football player suing over allegations of discrimination on the basis of a medical condition and claiming the university violated Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act by discussing his condition with staff.
A suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana is being challenged by the university as an “interstate" claim, which the school’s counsel contends is prohibited by the 11th Amendment. The school filed a motion to dismiss the case Jan. 23.
Deven Hammond is pursuing the case based on the allegations that after learning he had only one kidney, a coach and other staff discussed the situation and did not offer him a previously offered sports scholarship opportunity. He filed his suit in November 2017.
Recent reports indicate U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes has not yet ruled on the case, which raises interesting questions around medical fitness for athletic activity.
Hammond argued that the school refused to clear him for play, even after a kidney specialist said he would not need to be restricted and that medical disqualification was not merited.
Part of what's at stake is a full-ride scholarship that Hammond says the school had offered him if he made it onto the second string or better after one semester.
"It hurt my family and it hurt me because we were all expecting to be able to see me out there playing," Hammond told the Times-Picayune in November of last year.
Hammond has presented a letter from the kidney specialist in question that the court can evaluate to make a decision about whether the university's decision infringed on Hammond's rights.
The plaintiff’s lawyers declined to comment when reached by the Louisiana Record. Calls made to the attorneys for the defendants were not returned by press time.