Lawsuit to return to Chicago

The lawsuit brought by the family of a Northwestern football player who collapsed and died during practice is heading back to Chicago.

A New Jersey federal judge approved a $100,000 settlement Wednesday between the family of Rashidi Wheeler and three dietary supplement companies, removing the companies as NU’s co-defendants and clearing the way for the trial to return to Cook County Circuit Court.

The decision is a blow to NU, which has blamed Wheeler’s death at an August 2001 practice on ephedra-containing supplements and wanted manufacturers to share financial liability for Wheeler’s death.

Linda Will, Wheeler’s mother, has maintained that her son’s death was the result of a rigorous workout and poor medical attention and filed suit shortly after Wheeler’s death against NU, then-Director of Athletics Rick Taylor and several members of the football coaching staff, including head coach Randy Walker.

The Cook County Medical Examiner ruled exercise-induced asthma was the cause of Wheeler’s death.

Will said she was pleased with the ruling and said it was important for the case to be heard in Chicago.

“Northwestern’s in Chicago, and that’s where my son lost his life,” she said. “To hear this trial anywhere else would be a disservice to Rashidi.”

The case had been moved to New Jersey because Nutraquest. Inc., one of the manufacturers named in the case, had filed for bankruptcy. The company is based in New Jersey.

NU chief attorney Thomas Cline said the university has not decided whether it will appeal the ruling.

“We’re disappointed that the court has chosen to accept the settlement, but we continue to believe that Mr. Wheeler’s death was the result of the ingestion of ephedra-based supplements and we will continue to defend that case here in Chicago,” said Cline, vice president and general counsel for NU.