LOS ANGELES — A former USC defensive end can move forward with most of the allegations in his lawsuit against the school that claims team doctors gave him painkillers that caused a heart attack and damaged his future potential as an NFL player, a judge ruled today.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos said there were enough details in Armond Armstead’s complaint to support for now his allegations of fraud and negligence.
She also said his lawyers can file within 20 days an amended complaint clarifying how USC purportedly interfered with Armstead’s economic prospects as a professional player, his emotional stress claim and how team physician Dr. James Tibone allegedly battered him.
Palazuelos dismissed the suit’s products liability allegations.
Armstead filed his suit last Aug. 30. It alleges that Tibone and other USC doctors irresponsibly treated Armstead while he played for the Trojans, requiring him to take the painkilling drug Toradol several times without informing him of the possible side effects. Armstead’s lawyers maintain Tibone battered Armstead by giving him Toradol “without limitation” and “without his informed consent.”
The suit — which also names Tibone and University Park Health Center — alleges that USC knew Armstead suffered a heart attack and purposely withheld that he had received Toradol from his doctors. Attorney Robert Bale, on behalf of Armstead, told Palazuelos that USC officials knew Toradol was inherently dangerous to administer to Armstead.
“It’s really not a lot different from steroids,” Bale said. “It made him feel like Superman, that he was invincible.”
According to Bale, Toradol is not used for medical reasons, but instead to keep injured players playing instead of recuperating.
“It keeps injured players on the field to benefit USC financially,” he said. Armstead was given an ultimatum regarding the drug, Bale said.
“If you don’t get this shot, you don’t play, and if you don’t play, you don’t get scouted, and if you’re not scouted, you don’t play in the NFL,” Bale said.
Armstead had wanted since childhood to play in the NFL, Bale said.
“This was his goal, his dream, his desire,” Bale said.
But USC attorney Louis Pappas disputed Bale’s characterization of Toradol.
“Toradol is a safe drug,” he said.
Armstead, 22, played three seasons for USC from 2008-10, starting 17 games and recording 59 tackles. He was not medically cleared to play for the Trojans in 2011 because of a training incident. Armstead was not taken in the draft, but played last season with the Grey Cup-winning Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. The Argonauts released him in January and that same month he signed with the New England Patriots. He is listed on the team roster as a defensive tackle.