Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jury awards $800,000 to family of dead high school baseball player

TAMPA — A Hillsborough jury has awarded more than $800,000 to the family of an Alonso High School baseball player who died during a preseason workout nearly seven years ago.

Matthew M. Miulli, then 17, had a pre-existing heart condition but was cleared to participate in conditioning workouts. He collapsed after running a mile on the high school track and was declared dead at the Town & Country Hospital from congenital aortic valve disease.

Matthew's death raised questions about requirements for school sports and also spurred a Florida High School Athletic Association rule that mandates schools have defibrillators at sporting events.

The defendants in the long-running civil case are his doctor, Erwin Shartz; the doctor's medical group, Healthpoint Medical Group; and the Hillsborough School Board.

The actual jury award was for $2 million. But if the verdict is upheld, parents Jim and Kathy Miulli would receive only about $800,000. That's because the jury reduced the award based on what it saw as his parents' share of the blame.

Neither the school district nor an attorney for Shartz returned a message seeking comment.

Miulli, a junior at Alonso, had transferred from Tampa Catholic High School, in part so he could get more baseball playing time. He had played outfield on the junior varsity squad at Tampa Catholic, but wanted to play catcher.

Bryan Caulfield, an attorney for Miulli's parents, said they went ahead and got their son another physical — even though the school did not require it for preseason workouts.

Shartz cleared Miulli to do the workouts, which included running and weight lifting. But a cardiologist called Shartz and told him Miulli should not get the go-ahead, Caulfield said.

Miulli's parents say they never got the cardiologist's warning. Shartz said he left phone messages, but they say they never got them. He sent a certified letter, too, but when Shartz's medical group received notice that the certified letter had gone undelivered, no one notified Shartz, according to Caulfield.

"Instead, the letter went into a drawer," Caulfield said.

Miulli, meanwhile, had started in on the workouts. Four and a half months later, he collapsed. For someone with a heart problem, Caulfield said, "When you do intense conditioning workouts, you're moving toward your death."

Miulli died in January 2005.

Caulfield said the jury determined the school district was partially on the hook since it did not require the physical before preseason workouts.

Matthew was the only child of Jim and Kathy Miulli, who have spent the last years consumed by his death: a long-running court case, mediation, testimony before the state Legislature and the County Commission.

"It came to a point a year and half ago where we were just tired," Jim Miulli said. Every time something new came up in the case, "it just opened the wound right up."

His wife still gets teary-eyed when she talks about the day they rushed to the high school and saw a coach sitting on their son, trying to perform CPR. They remember their son, a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, who still liked spending Friday nights with his dad at the batting cages.

They remember, too, when he was a toddler who would plop a ball in an adult's lap and waddle to the other side of the room and clap, waiting for a pitch.

His father comforts himself with numbers. For instance: The state Legislature in 2006 passed the Gordon-Miulli Act, which funded the purchase of defibrillators at many youth athletic events.

"It passed 119 to 0," he said. And the significance of 119, he said? Jan. 19 is the day Matthew died.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374.

Jury awards $800,000 to family of dead high school baseball player 10/26/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Cubs down Dodgers 3-2; force NLCS Game 5 Thursday

    Ml

    CHICAGO — Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, former Ray Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

  2. One of the best places for investing in a rental house is in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Two Tampa Bay ZIP Codes are drawing national attention.

    . If you're looking to invest in a house to rent out, few places are better than  ZIP Code 34607 in Hernando County's Spring Hill area, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
[LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Times
 file photo]

  3. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.
  4. Suspect in Maryland office park shooting is apprehended

    Nation

    EDGEWOOD, Md. — A man with a lengthy criminal past who was fired from a job earlier this year for punching a colleague showed up for work at a countertop company on Wednesday and shot five of his co-workers has been arrested, authorities said. Three of them were killed and two critically wounded.

    Harford County, Md., Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler shows a picture of Radee Labeeb Prince, the suspect in the workplace shootings.
  5. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.