BREAKING: Myles Powell Nails Court Win Over Seton Hall University, Coach Kevin Willard




On November 14, 2022, the District Court of New Jersey denied defendants Seton Hall University, Kevin Willard,

Tony Testa and Deja Craig’s motion to dismiss plaintiff Myles Powell’s claims for gross negligence.


Factual History


Myles Powell was a star basketball player at Seton Hall University. In November of Powell’s senior season, he suffered what was believed to be an ankle injury and was examined by then-head coach Kevin Willard and Director of Sports Medicine Tony Testa. The duo determined that the injury was limited to just Powell’s ankle and instructed him that he could continue playing at no risk of further injury. However, that later proved to be questionable advice at best.


In December of that year (2019), Powell began experiencing severe pain in his right knee. Powell alleges that, before games, Testa would inject him with an unknown substance and give him unknown pills to mask the pain.

According to the January, 2022 second amended complaint, Powell alleges Testa mistakenly texted him [Powell] “[y]a Myles Powell has a lateral meniscus tear,” thinking the message was being sent to someone else. Powell believes that Testa later advised Willard of the meniscus tear, but both did nothing to address it, nor (intentionally) inform Powell. In fact, Powell alleges in his complaint that on the following day, on January 14, 2020, Testa texted Powell saying “[r]emember to take your medicine this morning.” Powell alleges that at no point during his senior season did Seton Hall, Willard, or Testa suggest to Powell that he stop playing or consult with an independent medical professional.


In June, 2020, Powell went to the head orthopedic surgeon for the Philadelphia Eagles., Dr. Matthew Pepe. Dr. Pepe arranged an MRI scan of Powell’s knee and ultimately found a clean tear in Powell’s lateral meniscus. Powell alleges that he had been properly diagnosed, he would have been sidelined for the remainder of his senior season to properly heal.


Powell claims that because his meniscus tear was “suspected or discovered” by NBA teams, he went from being a “guaranteed” first-round draft pick to undrafted. He now plays in the Philippine Basketball Association, where he recently scored 50 points in a game.


Legal Analysis


Defendants brought their motion to dismiss pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6), which provides for the dismissal of a complaint if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, and pursuant to the famous Twombly/Iqbal line of cases, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face’”


The District Court of New Jersey issued its decision on November 14, 2022, writing “[t]he central question with respect to each of Powell's three counts of gross negligence is whether the allegations in the [second amended complaint], assumed to be true, would satisfy the higher standard needed to state a claim of gross negligence or whether such allegations sound merely in simple negligence.”


“Where negligence is the failure to exercise ordinary or reasonable care that leads to a natural and probable injury, ‘gross negligence is the failure to exercise slight care or diligence.’”


Ultimately, the court held that Powell has plausibly alleged a gross negligence claim against the defendants. If Powell’s alleged facts are true, he has demonstrated that defendants’ breach caused his injuries and that he suffered as a result.


Thus, Powell lives to see another day in court. This does not mean that his claims will necessarily be successful moving forward. It is significant though, as he made it past the first, and often most fatal stage of a lawsuit. He can now focus on compelling discovery, and should seek private text conversations between Willard and Testa regarding their knowledge of the extent of his injury.


The court gave significance to Testa’s “accidental” text to Powell stating that he has a meniscus tear. Also, the court notes that “Powell alleges that his father spoke with Willard who conceded that Defendants made a mistake in not properly disclosing and treating Powell's injury. Willard is currently the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Maryland.


Presiding District Court Judge William J. Martini is a graduate of Big East foe Villanova University; don’t expect any favors for Seton Hall and the defendants!


Jason Morrin is a law clerk (pending admission to the NY Bar) at Zumpano, Patricios & Popok LLP in New York, a firm dedicated to litigation and business counseling including in the areas of sports, gaming and entertainment. He graduated cum laude from Hofstra Law School where he was president of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. His writing for Conduct Detrimental has been cited by ESPN, The New York Post, USA Today, and more.