Lawsuit: Inflatable sumo wrestling led to brain injury at Miami-Dade charter school

07/22/2014 5:01 PM

07/23/2014 3:42 AM

During a Hialeah Gardens school “Spirit Day,” a teen girl dressed in an inflatable sumo wrestler suit for what was supposed to be a goofy match with a classmate.

But a lawsuit claims the sumo fun went horribly wrong, leaving the teen with severe brain damage after her head repeatedly struck the floor.

The girl, 15-year-old freshman Celaida Lissabet, and her mother late last week sued charter school Mater Academy and Mega Party Events, the company that supplied the inflatable suits, which the lawsuit contends are designed for use in “violent recreational sumo wrestling games.”

Adrian De La Rosa, owner of Mega Party Events, said the girl was outfitted according to instructions from the suit’s manufacturer.

“The suit is fairly safe. We’ve never had an injury like this,” De La Rosa said. “I really hope she is doing OK.”

The Lissabets allege the school and company failed to ensure her helmet fit properly during the event last October. She was later rushed to the hospital after complaining of “blurred vision, dizziness, nausea and headaches,” according to to the negligence lawsuit filed by Davie attorney Lance Rudzinski.

The once-vibrant ninth-grader can no longer communicate properly and exhibits child-like behavior, Rudzinski said.

“Now, she sits in her room at night, in the darkness and doesn’t talk to anyone,” he said. “She has severe anxiety. It’s a complete 180-degree turn for her and her family. It’s really tragic.”

Wrestling in inflatable sumo body suits is a party activity loosely fashioned after the ancient Japanese sport in which hefty wrestlers compete to push each other out of a circular ring.

In the American game, the match is conducted on a protective mat ring. But Celaida fell backward, hitting her head three times against the ground outside the mat, according to her attorneys.

The lawsuit was filed against Mater Academy, 7901 NW 103rd St., and West Kendall’s Mega Party. The lawsuit alleges the company knew from “prior similar incidents” that participants faced serious injury.

A representative for Mater Academy said she could not immediately comment because the school had not been served the lawsuit, and the principal was out of town.

De La Rosa of Mega Party Events said the company’s insurance carrier is exploring whether the girl had suffered the head injury prior to the October event.

It’s not the first lawsuit involving the inflatable sumo game.

The most prominent: In 2007, Colorado woman sued the makers of an inflatable sumo suit after she fell and suffered severe brain damage during a company retreat. Jurors awarded her $2 million in damages.

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