CAMP PENDLETON — A lawsuit has been filed against the United States of America, USA Wrestling and a military weapons product manufacturer on behalf of former wrestling US National Team member Richard Perry, who sustained brain damage during a training accident on the Marine Corps base.
Court documents state that on Aug. 27, 2018, Perry was at Camp Pendleton for a National Team training camp when he suffered a terrible head injury.
According to the documents, USA Wrestling organizes periodic training camps for its National Team members, who are required to attend these camps or else they could be penalized. In August 2018, the Marine Corps and USA Wrestling held a multi-week World Team Training Camp for elite civilian wrestlers like Perry.
The camp was jointly planned and held by USA Wrestling and the Marine Corps, which is one of the main corporate sponsors for USA Wrestling.
The camp was planned to train the wrestlers while having them participate in Marine Corps activities on base, such as sleeping in the barracks, eating in the mess hall and generally living like Marines.
The camp then arranged to have the athletes participate in military weapons training activities.
Robert Francavilla, an attorney for San Diego-based law firm CaseyGerry who is representing Perry in the lawsuit, said that the weapons training activities were completely unrelated to the type of training the wrestlers were supposed to do. Still, the wrestlers could not opt out because they were required to be there.
The court document states that USA Wrestling and the Marine Corps had set forth many regulations and mandatory safety measures for the type of military training activities the wrestlers were engaged in, including rules that require “full-contact weapons training be limited to Marines who have completed a significant amount of unarmed combat training and who are sufficiently advanced to safely engage in full-contact weapons training.”
The court document then notes that particular rule was not followed and alleges that on Aug. 27, Perry and other wrestlers were placed into a “‘fight club’-style full-speed, full-contact military weapons training exercise using a padded baton” that was manufactured by Armament Systems and Procedures, Inc.
The wrestlers were also allegedly instructed, “to strike, thrust, and jab at the opponent’s head and face to score ‘a kill shot.’”
None of the civilian wrestlers had been provided any training on how to use weapons in combat, according to the court document. Weapons are also not used in wrestling.
“They really had no business being placed into this activity,” Francavilla said.
Some of the wrestlers were not provided with proper safety gear either. While Perry’s training partner had a helmet with a tight, metal grid facemask, Perry’s mask was a “plain football helmet and facemask with large openings over his eyes and face.”
During the exercise, Perry’s training partner allegedly jabbed forward with the baton, which passed through the large gap in Perry’s football mask. According to documents, the baton itself was not in optimal condition.
The baton’s thin, hard central rod split from the padding and penetrated the torn fabric covering and struck Perry’s eye orbit, shattering it. The pieces then penetrated Perry’s brain tissue.
Perry almost died, according to court documents. Francavilla said Perry later had to have dead brain tissue amputated from his brain.
“It was a really graphic and sad situation that occurred, but it was one that was preventable,” Francavilla said. “It was obvious to anyone in charge that these guys were being put at risk without their knowledge.”
The court document alleges that “the Marine Corps and USA Wrestling either completely failed to inspect and maintain the equipment being used by the participants, including Richard Perry, or negligently inspected or maintained it.” It also alleges that representatives of the two organizations who were present “negligently and recklessly encouraged head shots and baton jabs by the inexperienced participants.”
Francavilla said Perry and his wife, Gina Cimmino, are pursuing the lawsuit to “hold those accountable and to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”