Family of late USF player retains Cohen
TAMPA - It has been nearly five months since USF freshman football player Keeley Dorsey collapsed and died during a team conditioning workout, and his mother, Tammie, still has no answers as to what caused her son's sudden death.
Now, it appears she may be seeking more than just answers.
The Times confirmed Tuesday that shortly after her son's death, Tammie Dorsey retained the law firm of attorney Barry Cohen, the first indication that the family may be considering litigation.
"We're not putting blame anywhere. We're trying to find out what happened, " Cohen said. "We're just examining the facts, and we'll see where those facts take us, if anywhere. We have not yet made a determination if there's any basis for litigation."
Cohen has handled several high-profile cases in recent years, representing teacher Jennifer Porter in her hit-and-run case and Steve and Marlene Aisenberg when they were accused of conspiracy in the abduction of their 5-month-old daughter. His firm's Web site boasts dozens of million-dollar civil verdicts and settlements.
When Dorsey died on Jan. 17, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office initially anticipated a routine timetable of four to six weeks to determine a cause of death. Spokesman Dick Bailey said the office does about 95 percent of its toxicology tests in-house but is now waiting for results from a more complicated test sent to an outside lab, so an announcement on findings could still be a month away.
"Tests thus far have not led to a definitive cause of death, " Bailey said. "It's not under our control when we send out these tests, but we've been in contact with the family throughout the process."
Dorsey, a 19-year-old running back from Tallahassee who rushed for a 52-yard touchdown on the final play of the Bulls' season opener against McNeese State last season, collapsed and died at USF's athletic facility while taking part in a regular weight-room workout. There's been no indication of wrongdoing on USF's part; the university has six portable defibrillators in its athletic facility, including one in the weight room that was used as USF trainers attempted to revive Dorsey. Like all USF football players, he had physical exam last fall that screened for pre-existing medical conditions.
Tammie Dorsey declined to comment Tuesday through her attorney, but Kevin Kalwary, an investigator with Cohen, Jayson and Foster, said she had contacted his firm in January, shortly after her son's death.
"She was frustrated at her inability to get answers ... from USF, from the medical examiner, from everyone, " Kalwary said. "We're trying to get those answers for her, and all I can say is we're investigating the case."
There are two recent precedents for lawsuits following the sudden death of football players in Florida programs. Florida State agreed to a $2-million settlement in 2004 with the family of linebacker Devaughn Darling, who died during an offseason workout in 2001, though the family has only received $200, 000.
The family of former Florida player Eraste Autin, who collapsed and died in 2001 after a voluntary summer workout with teammates, settled a lawsuit with UF out of court in November.
USF sports information director John Gerdes said he was unaware of any athletic department employees being interviewed about Dorsey's death by anyone outside the university. Cohen said his firm would give "a lot of consideration" to autopsy results once they're released, but said it's "totally unfair" to suggest a civil suit could follow.
"Just because my firm is involved, I don't think it's a fair inference, " Cohen said. "That's a leap. We're examining what may or may not lead to anything."