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High court rules for Vikings in Stringer suit

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Nov. 17, 2005) -- The widow of lineman Korey Stringer hit another, probably final legal roadblock when the Minnesota Supreme Court refused to let her pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the Vikings and several employees.

Siding with two lower courts, the Supreme Court's 4-2 decision -- Justice Alan Page, a former Viking, recused himself -- exhausted Kelci Stringer's avenues in state court.

Vikings tackle Korey Stringer died in training camp four years ago.

She sued the team, claiming her 27-year-old husband didn't receive proper medical care after collapsing following a blocking drill. Stringer, a 335-pound Pro Bowl tackle whose body temperature was measured at 108.8 degrees after he practiced in the sweltering heat and humidity, died of heatstroke early the next morning.

At issue was whether team trainers should have kept Stringer out of practice after a heat-related episode the evening before he collapsed, and whether they responded correctly to warning signs.

Kelci Stringer said actions by the trainers amounted to gross negligence.

Korey Stringer's agent Jim Gould, who remains a family spokesman, said Kelci was upset by the outcome.

"The door is now shut and we're very disappointed," Gould said. "In our opinion justice was not served."

Vikings attorney Jim O'Neal said the decision is the final word in the case, but the team still has mixed emotions.

"There's nothing about this case that is cause for celebration," O'Neal said. "Korey Stringer was a fine man and a fine player. He was an important member of the team. There is nothing joyful about anything to do with his death or the lawsuit that followed it."

Justice Paul Anderson, writing for the majority, said health care providers are expected to exercise discretion when treating patients. That applies, he said, to trainers Fred Zamberletti and Paul Osterman, who were named as defendants along with the team.

"While in retrospect we may want or expect that Osterman and Zamberletti would have responded to Stringer's condition differently, they nonetheless were acting within their scope of employment," Anderson wrote.

The district judge who dismissed the lawsuit against the team allowed a medical-malpractice case against Dr. David Knowles and the Mankato Clinic to proceed. They settled out of court for an undisclosed amount in May 2003.

The Stringer family still has a lawsuit pending against the NFL in federal court, claiming the league hasn't done enough to protect its players from potential injuries or deaths caused by heat-related illnesses. Equipment maker Riddell is named as a defendant, as well. A hearing in that case is set for Nov. 30 in Columbus, Ohio.

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