The family of a Rocky Point High School wrestler has filed a $12 million lawsuit against the district, saying the school's negligence caused the athlete to contract a dangerous bacterial infection.
The lawsuit alleges the Rocky Point Union Free School District failed to adequately sanitize wrestling equipment and did not flip over wrestling mats "in the span of seven years," which provided a breeding ground for MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
The infection caused Anthony Lucia Jr., a sophomore at the time, to be hospitalized for six days and undergo emergency surgery, said his father, Anthony Lucia Sr., who filed the lawsuit.
He said his son started to show symptoms after practice on Dec. 22 and was taken to the emergency room two days later limping in pain.
In January, Rocky Point Schools Superintendent Michael F. Ring told parents in messages to the school community that there had been five cases reported. He said then that the infection "is quite common and it is possible that more cases will be identified." Most of the infections "aren't serious," he said at the time.
John Ray, whose Miller Place firm is handling the lawsuit, said the family is suing the district "to alert the public of how serious MRSA is."
Lucia Sr. also says school officials assured him they would reimburse him for $8,000 in medical bills through a pupil benefit plan, but never did.
"The school never picked up any of the extra expenses," he said. He's still getting bills sent to him, he said.
"They didn't even let anybody know when the first kid got it," said Lucia Sr., adding his son was the second student who contracted MRSA. He said his family filed the suit because the "policies and procedures need to be adhered to in cleaning the mats with the right chemicals." He said he thinks there should be logs that track when the rooms are cleaned to prevent MRSA from spreading. "Not just going down there with a wet mop. You need the right stuff to do it."
In an emailed statement, Ring said the district "does not comment on active litigation. Moreover, confidentiality must be maintained regarding student matters of this nature."