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Mom settles lawsuit over son's death after run at Putnam City High School

by Nolan Clay Published: November 22, 2012
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A mother whose son died of hyperthermia after a school run has accepted $97,500 to settle her lawsuit against Putnam City Public Schools.

LaTasha Patton filed the lawsuit last year in Oklahoma County District Court. A judge dismissed the lawsuit this month because of the settlement.

Her son, Traquan James Patton, 16, died on Aug 21, 2010. He had collapsed the day before from the heat during a 3.1-mile run at a park across from Putnam City High School.

Traquan, a junior, had moved from Washington, D.C., two weeks before. His collapse came on his second day at the high school during an offseason conditioning run for spring sports.

The temperature that day was over 100 degrees.

His mother alleged in the lawsuit that coaches abandoned her son “during his most dangerous part of the run.” She also complained the school had not gotten her permission for her son to do the run, and he had not had a physical exam.

“LaTasha Patton, who had been waiting at the school to pick up her son, had no idea Traquan Patton was participating in the run,” her attorney, Stephen Bachman, wrote in a legal brief.

“She finally drove to the park after having her son paged. She drove into the park and observed coaches Natalie Johnston and Jonathan Johnston sitting on the grass and playing with their dog. LaTasha was then told to go back to the school as that was where Traquan was. As she drove back to the school, she observed an ambulance pulling in to the park and followed the ambulance, to discover her son, who had collapsed as a result of prolonged heat exposure.”

The attorney representing Putnam City Public Schools acknowledged the death was tragic.

The attorney, Laura Holmes, wrote in a legal brief, “It is not possible for a cross country coach to have eyes on every participant at every second of a run. There were coaches present and monitoring to ensure that all students ... were accounted for at the end of the run.”

She also wrote “speculation that more supervision would have prevented this accident is without merit. Every year, there are incidents where people under close supervision suffer from heat-related illnesses and die. Such deaths are not caused by the lack of supervision but by the heat.”

Both attorneys confirmed the settlement was paid from insurance funds but declined further comment. LaTasha Patton now lives in Washington, D.C., again and could not be located for comment.

The amount of the settlement — $97,500 — was disclosed in Traquan's probate case. The attorney handling the probate case said the legal fees and expenses associated with the lawsuit were paid out of that amount.

by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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