The Federal Way High School football team wears practice jerseys with the word “brotherhood” on the back to honor former teammate Allen Harris. File Photo by Olivia Sullivan, Sound Publishing

The Federal Way High School football team wears practice jerseys with the word “brotherhood” on the back to honor former teammate Allen Harris. File Photo by Olivia Sullivan, Sound Publishing

Federal Way schools to pay $5.25M settlement after student athlete’s death

Allen Harris, 16, died during a summer football workout in 2018.

Federal Way Public Schools district will pay a $5.25 million settlement to the parents of Allen Harris, a 16-year-old student who died during a summer football practice in 2018, according to the family’s attorney.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the school district in August 2019 by Connelly Law Offices in Tacoma on behalf of Harris’ parents. The Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) district appealed the suit and the state Court of Appeals sided with the Harris family, ruling that the district “owed a duty to student athletes, such as Allen Harris, to prepare for medical emergencies,” according to a statement from Micah LeBank, an attorney representing the Harris family.

The lawsuit found the Federal Way High School coaches had not been properly trained to identify sudden cardiac arrest signs and the school had “failed to perform drills that would help the coaches respond in the event of an emergency,” according to court records. The settlement was reached in early November 2022.

“The tragic loss of Allen Harris in 2018 was felt across Federal Way Public Schools, and those who knew him continue to feel this loss,” said Whitney Chiang, chief of communications for the school district. “We know our coaches did their best in a very difficult situation. The district’s risk pool agreed to settle and pay this claim through a mediated process. Our hearts go out to those who continue to grieve the loss of this bright young man.”

Allen Harris’ cause of death was determined by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office to be cardiomyopathy, a condition that causes an abnormal thickening of the heart muscles and can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

While the school had hired an outside provider to prepare an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), the plan was not provided to coaches, nor were the coaches aware of the plan, documents state. In addition, Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association (WIAA) trainings instruct coaches to assume the person is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, to immediately start CPR and obtain a automated external defibrillator (AED) if a person collapses for no reason and is unresponsive.

“The coaches were not familiar with this training and mistook Allen’s [sudden cardiac arrest] for a seizure,” LeBank said.

On July 24, 2018, the Federal Way High School Eagles football team held an outdoor conditioning workout practice at Federal Way Memorial Field. Temperatures on that day hovered around mid-80s in an “exceptionally hot” day, according to court documents.

The players had been sprinting for about 15 to 20 minutes. They were returning for another set of sprints when at about 2:39 p.m., Harris collapsed and began having what appeared to be seizures, documents state. Harris had no history of seizures and did not sustain any head trauma when he collapsed.

A coach who reached Harris said the student’s eyes had rolled back and he was seizing, documents state. The team’s head coach was out of town during this practice and an athletic trainer was not on site.

“Even though these represented clear signs of [sudden cardiac arrest], the coaches believed that Allen was simply having a seizure and had another player pour water on his head. No one did CPR and no one went to obtain the AED that was a mere 20-30 seconds away,” according to LeBank and records from the Court of Appeals.

Records show it was roughly 10 minutes from the time of Harris’ collapse to the CPR first being initiated. It would be an estimated total of 12 minutes from the time of his collapse to the first AED shock. Allen was transported to St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way where he later died.

Allen Harris is survived by his parents Rod and Dee Harris.

In a statement, the Harris family said they hope this settlement “will encourage school districts to train their coaches to identify and respond to sudden cardiac arrest and hope that Allen’s legacy can save the lives of other students and student athletes.”

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

Allen Harris, 16, died of sudden cardiac arrest after running sprints during an outdoor practice at Federal Way High School on a hot summer day in July 2018. Courtesy photo

Allen Harris, 16, died of sudden cardiac arrest after running sprints during an outdoor practice at Federal Way High School on a hot summer day in July 2018. Courtesy photo

More in Sports

Too hot to play sports? High temps challenge Kent Parks Department

Four days of events canceled July 6-9 at Wilson Playfields where surface temps soared to 120 degrees

Gio Moimoi drives to the basket for Kentridge. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Summer league spotlight: Kentridge and Kentwood boys hoops

“It has been a night and day difference from year one to now.”

Photos by Ben Ray / The Reporter
Jaylen Petty drives against Lincoln inside the Tacoma Dome.
Two-time NPSL MVP to leave Auburn High School for Rainier Beach

Jaylen Petty will play his last high school season as a Viking in Seattle.

Photo provided by Rodney McCurry.
Seattle Majestics play in postseason

Seattles women’s tackle football team goes to Las Vegas to open up the playoffs.

Skylar Diggins-Smith conducts the offense against the Sparks. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Storm pour it on in the fourth, wash out Sparks

Seattle used a huge 10-0 run late in the fourth to take control over Los Angeles.

Federal Way Memorial Field. Photo provided by Bruce Honda
Federal Way Memorial Field to host high school boys soccer tournaments

Class 2A, 1A competitions to move to Federal Way from Renton for 2025 to 2028

2024 Kent Reporter Athletes of the Year are Ella Wick and Ethan Loghry. Pictured left to right: Kent Reporter sports writer Ben Ray, Ella Wick, Ethan Loghry, and Brian Smith, Kent School District Director of Athletics and Activities. Photo provided by ROBBY MULLIKIN
Kent School District and Kent Reporter’s 2024 Athletes of the Year

Kentlake’s Ethan Loghry and Ella Wick take home top awards.

Kentwood and Kentridge players go at it for possession. Ben Ray / The Reporter
NPSL All-League Soccer Teams: Kentwood’s Logan Hasting is POTY

Other Kent School District athletes make the list.

Hazen’s Illia Biezak leaps over the bar. Ben Ray / The Reporter
State track and field: Liberty boys, Kent-Meridian girls place inside top four in 3A

Cassie Atkins (FW) continued to dominate, has now won five titles in three years.

Auburn Riverside softball wins state championship

Ravens win first fastpitch title in school history.

Steve Raible auctioning off a Seahawks football from 1983.
Seahawks legends inspire South King County youth at breakfast

Scholar-Athlete Breakfast in Auburn features Steve Largent and Steve Raible.

Sofia Mottern-Salinas gives a yell after getting the rally going against North Creek. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Kentwood fastpitch rallies at state, but misses out on trophy

Kentwood went 2-2 in the state tournament, falling to Emerald Ridge and Puyallup on final day.