Former Cal rower files lawsuit against coaches, UC regents

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Kimberly Veklerov/File

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A former member of the Cal women’s crew team filed a lawsuit Friday against the UC Board of Regents and her former coach alleging that his improper credentials led to her back injury in 2014.

The suit, filed by Madison Stockton in the Alameda County Superior Court, includes charges of fraud, breach of contract and negligent hiring against then-assistant strength and conditioning coach Justin Thompson, head coach Al Acosta and assistant coach Vanessa Tavalero. Stockton alleges that coaching inexperience led to her back injury during a weightlifting session Sept. 25, 2014, and at a workout the next day.

In the lawsuit, Stockton alleges that Thompson lacked “proper credentials, experience, and training to competently and safely coach weightlifting” and failed to provide supervision of or education regarding the exercises he assigned.

Stockton also alleges that Tavalero admonished her for injuring herself and instructed her to work out on a stationary rowing machine. In the aftermath, Stockton was diagnosed with a herniated disc — which the lawsuit attributes to these training sessions.

“She underwent surgery last fall,” said Stockton’s attorney Elinor Leary, of the Veen Firm, in an email. “To this day, she’s still working to get back to her former self.”

Acosta allegedly cut Stockton from the team in November 2014, according to the lawsuit, causing her to lose access to student-athlete medical services.

“She was devastated that within three months of being injured, while she was still treating and trying to figure out her options, Cal cut her from the team and then ceased her student health benefits,” Leary alleged in the email.

Cal Athletics has not seen a copy of the complaint, according to spokesperson Herb Benenson, who therefore declined to comment on the litigation.

A UC spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Leary said she expects a trial to take place in about 18 months.

Hooman Yazdanian is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @hoomanyazdanian