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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Jury Awards $1M to South Carolina Teens in 'Choking Game' Lawsuit

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A young boy looked forward to summer camp consisting of high ropes, archery and campfires. One game not described in the camp brochure was “the choking game.” Dylan was nine-years-old at the time. At 13, he sat on the witness stand explaining why he sought counseling after only four days at the camp. "I don't like people touching me or touching my neck," he said. "I only let my mom touch me. It sends shivers up my spine." Dylan refuses to wear a necktie, ever.

Dylan was one of four young boys allegedly forced to play "the choking game" by a 17-year-old volunteer counselor. It can be played in a variety of ways, but the goal of the “choking games” is to deprive the brain of oxygen long enough to create a feeling of euphoria before passing out. Teens intentionally will either choke each other or use a noose to choke themselves to get a brief high.

Dylan’s family and another camper's family together won a $1 million verdict in a civil case. Their attorney said the camp placed the youth counselor in charge of young boys without training or supervision, and performed no background check.

A Clemson University spokesperson said Camp Bob Cooper, a camp for children of deployed soldiers or those preparing to go oversea, has implemented standards for camper supervision in the years since the incident and makes safety its top priority. Yet, she also believes the award was excessive and said the school plans to appeal.

“This ‘game,’ as it is often called, does not require obtaining any drugs or alcohol, is free, and can go undetected by many parents, teachers, physicians, and other authority figures. It is popular among all ages – middle school children and college students, alike. Many who engage in this activity do not understand that it can be just as deadly as illegal substances. It is not a means of fainting; “the choking game” drastically increases the chance of severe and permanent brain damage or death. Three minutes without oxygen can result in a seizure, memory loss, or a concussion; after four minutes, it can cause severe brain damage or death.

Parents beware of this game. Even if you’ve never heard of it, there’s a good chance your son or daughter has. Most kids who have died from playing “the choking game” (also known as “Pass Out”, the “Fainting Game”, and “Good Kids High”, to name a few) were active, intelligent, stable children who thought this was a safe alternative to drugs and alcohol. That means it is even more important for parents talk to their teens and be alert for these warning signs:

  • Bruising or marks around the neck
  • Bloodshot eyes, pinpoint bruising around the eyes
  • Unusual need for privacy.
  • Locked or blocked bedroom or bathroom doors
  • Disorientation after spending time alone
  • Changes in attitude especially if become more aggressive
  • Wear marks on furniture (from ropes, belts, etc. being attached)
  • Visits to websites mentioning the choking game
  • Ligatures (bed sheets, belts, tee-shirts, ties, ropes) tied in knots
  • Headaches, sometimes excruciatingly bad ones
  • A thud in the bedroom or against a wall

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about the choking game.

Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.