USA Track & Field is being sued for negligence after Taliyah Brooks collapsed during the heptathlon in June 2021 and was later hospitalized for heat exhaustion after competing in 111-degree heat at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. That month marked the highest temperatures in the city's recorded history.
“The complaint is asking the court to set aside a clause that USATF is trying to enforce that would prevent Taliyah Brooks from holding them accountable for its negligence,” Brooks’ lawyer Bill Bock told Yahoo Sports.
The complaint, which was filed in the Marion County Superior Court in Indiana, cites USATF’s denial of the Athletes’ Advisory Council’s petition to move the heptathlon trials from the hottest part of the day in a historic heatwave.
It also alleges that USATF failed to adequately staff the event, provide sufficient medical attention or even have an ambulance at the site.
While local news channels warned of the extreme conditions, Brooks was ranked second in the outdoor competition entering the second day of the heptathlon. Bracing herself to complete a seven-event outdoor competition, she felt off as she completed long jump, the first event of the day.
She competed in 108-degree weather the day prior and attempted to hydrate and continue. As she warmed up for javelin, the track reportedly reached 150 degrees compared to the 111-degree off-track temperature.
Before Brooks could compete, she collapsed. She woke up in an icetub with the realization that she wouldn’t make it to the Olympics, screaming as she waited for the ambulance to arrive, according to the Indy Star.
USATF reportedly denied Taliyah Brooks any assistance
Bock said the situation may have cost Brooks from performing at her best for "about another year."
“Not only did she miss the Olympics, but It really impacted her ability to perform at the level that she had been competing at for probably about another year,” Bock told Yahoo Sports. “It really set her career back and she was looking for some assistance from USATF. They said that they were not going to provide her any.”
Bock's law firm, KGR, also released a statement confirming the lawsuit. Bock argued Brooks' case could have ramifications for athletes in other sports in a quote at the end of that statement.
USATF and its insurance company delivered the news to Brooks in part, by mail. The letters, obtained by Yahoo Sports, contain reminders of the multiple release forms Brooks signed in order to compete. “Should this claim get into litigation, USA Track & Field will rely on the waiver as one of its defenses,” the organization wrote.
USATF’s insurance company wrote, “USATF was aware of extreme heat conditions on the weekend of the competition finals and took necessary precaution,” in its letter denying Brooks assistance.
Yahoo Sports reached out to USATF for comment.