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Pinellas County Schools faces $200,000 lawsuit over hurdle accident

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

A mother is suing Dunedin Highland Middle School because her daughter hurt herself jumping hurdles.

Darlene Echevarria is seeking damages for past and future medical bills, pain and suffering and “loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life” to the tune of $200,000.

Echevarria’s daughter, Amber, suffered a torn ACL and a fractured bone after being instructed to jump hurdles during her physical education class. According to the lawsuit Amber got caught on one of the hurdles and “fell hard.”

Echevarria alleges her daughter had never jumped hurdles before and wasn’t given proper instructions on how to warm up and stretch. She also says her daughter was not shown the “correct technique for the trail leg, arm positions, and/or running form” and her jumps were not properly supervised.

The allegations against the P.E. instructor, Harold Walker, also include improper setup of the hurdles.

Though Walker is named in the suit, Echevarria is seeking damages from the Pinellas County School Board.

The injury occurred last October. Amber Echevarria was 11 years old at the time of the incident. She is now 12.

Echevarria is represented by the law firm Roman & Roman, where the elder Echevarria works as a legal assistant.

The lawsuit was filed on April 22. In it the plaintiff suggests the injury may have resulted in the aggravation of a previous condition. It’s not clear whether Amber Echevarria had a previous condition or whether she was fit to participate in this activity.

The girl’s Facebook page shows several photos posted recently where she appears to be in good health. She doesn’t appear to be wearing any kind of cast or brace for her injuries.

According to WebMD, recovery times for ACL surgery vary by person, but typically it takes about four to six months to return to normal activity. Echevarria’s injury is well outside that time frame.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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