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Settlement reached with Lee County Schools after student dies of heat stroke

Zachary Martin-Polsenberg died in 2017
Posted at 7:58 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 19:58:08-05

LEE COUNTY — A lawsuit over the death of a student athlete in Lee County has finally been resolved.

The attorneys for Laurie Giordano announced Wednesday morning that the Lee County School District is paying her $950,000 in a settlement.

It’s a story Fox 4 has been following since 2017, when Zachary Martin-Polsenberg died from a heat stroke at football practice.

We spoke with Giordano Wednesday, and she said she spent years after her son’s death learning more about heat stroke. She said what she learned convinced her that the school didn’t do enough to save her son when he collapsed from exhaustion at Riverdale High School.

Giordano tried to explain what it was like learning her son had a stroke, when she had just dropped him off at practice hours before.

“There really aren’t words to describe, other than it’s a moment of horror," said Giordano.

Giordano said, that horror only grew when she learned her son could have been saved with a simple tub of ice and water.

“Five minutes of preparation and $150 is all it would have taken to save Zach," said Giordano.

“We have to make sure that this death, and the circumstances that led to it, never happens again," said Frank Aloia Jr. at a press conference Wednesday outside the law firm Aloia, Roland, Lubell & Morgan.

“It did require the District, to their credit, to step up and do something voluntary," said attorney Ty Roland.

But in addition to fighting the lawsuit, Giordano also fought to get the "Zachary Martin Act" passed in honor of her son. It requires schools to have cold water immersion and automated external defibrillators on-hand, and her attorneys say, that’s only the beginning.

“Laurie’s already speaking to legislators in other states. She’s speaking to legislators in New Jersey. So we’re hopefully going to get laws passed," said attorney Evan Lubell.

“I really want cold water immersion to be part of that, that level of care where everyone knows what to do, everyone recognizes it, and deaths from exertion heat stroke just become a thing of the past," Giordano.

We reached out to the School District as well. It didn’t confirm the $950,000 settlement, but it said it is continuing to work with the Zachary Martin Foundation to prevent heat-related illness.

Meanwhile, Giordano says the district has agreed to host a football game every year in the spring in Zach’s honor.