A 16-year-old boy died at an internationally-known athletic training facility because officials there failed to ensure he was physically fit enough to endure its rigorous programs, and a doctor closely affiliated with the center failed to properly evaluate the teen and diagnose his heart condition, according to a lawsuit.

IMG Academies, a $2 billion dollar, world famous athletic training and education enterprise in Bradenton, Florida, is facing a wrongful death lawsuit after Christian Chalita collapsed on a treadmill and died in 2004.

In Florida, before a child is allowed to participate in an athletic program, they must first be examined to make sure they are physically able to endure the activity.

IMG Academies, which heavily recruits international student-athletes, has a responsibility to make sure the young athletes are fit to participate in its strenuous programs. Officials also are tasked with keeping the students, many of whom leave their families, to come and train at IMG.

But in 2004, IMG’s negligence led to the death of the young, rising basketball star.

Christian Chalita, who was born in Florida but raised by his mother in Mexico, desperately wanted to become a professional basketball player. Officials at IMG assured Christian’s family in Mexico that they would take good care of her son. The school’s handbook boasted of an on-campus, sophisticated medical facility staffed with competent personnel. Christian’s health would be monitored, but, more importantly, his participation in IMG’s basketball training program would mold him into a stellar athlete – one that would play on the college level, and likely, even professional.

Once at IMG, Christian had to complete a medical history form. He was sure to indicate that his biological father had an undiagnosed heart condition and died in his 30’s from a heart attack.

IMG officials shirked a simple responsibility: Review medical history forms to make sure nothing required follow-up, that there was nothing the coaches and trainers should be aware of with each student. Instead, they filed the sheet away in a drawer, sight unseen.

And Christian continued his education and training at IMG for the next two years. He lived with a Bradenton family, attended school at IMG and trained there.

Because Christian’s mother still was in Mexico, the doctor who performed his physical for Christian’s second year at IMG had to sign the parent/guardian line of the form permitting him to participate in the program. That doctor, Joseph Soler, gave Christian the all clear, even though there was some controversy over the medical history form.

Barry Maron, a nationally recognized cardiac specialist, said Christian’s family history should have been a red flag. The doctor should have followed up with a simple and relatively short test: an echocardiogram. That would have shown that Christian shared his father’s heart condition and should not have been participating in such a rigorous physical program.

In September of 2004, Carol Yarosz Tomlinson, a nurse at a walk-in clinic, gave Christian a physical examination and cleared him to participate in his third year at IMG, even though she, too, knew about his father’s death. That October, Christian collapsed on a treadmill. He was found on the floor, bloodied with a laceration and hematoma to the head.

Coaches and staff in the training room had no idea Christian had a heart condition that caused his collapse. They told a 911 dispatcher they thought he was having a seizure. Had school officials bothered to look at Christian’s forms when he enrolled, they could have made the coaches aware, and therefore better equipped in case something happened.
As it was, the school’s only defibrillator was across campus in the nurse’s office. No help to Christian.

IMG claims to groom students to be college and professional-level athletes. Their 12,000 yearly student/athletes come from over 80 countries, and travel far from their homes and families on the promise that they will someday rise to athletic greatness. IMG charges great sums of money for their training program—as high as $70,000 per year. Knowing their program is rigorous, regimented and more strenuous than the average high school training level, IMG officials have a greater responsibility to track and monitor their students’ health. Families pay expensive tuition with the expectation that their children will be well supervised and cared for.

Had IMG officials, Dr. Soler and Nurse Tomlinson simply fulfilled the basic responsibilities of their positions, Christian Chalita would be alive today.

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    # by Scottys - October 5, 2009 at 5:51 PM

    This article is filled with half-truths and utter lies. It is an ignoble attempt to mislead a potential jury pool . The truth of the matter is that the boy was absolutely NOT forthcoming to medical personnel regarding heart problems in his family. Why? Because if he was, and IMG and/or relevant doctors were made aware of any potential condition , then it would have led to him possibly not being allowed to participate in sports. The boy likely concealed any knowledge of a family history of heart issues for this reason. This a horrible attempt by an out-of-town law firm and out-of-country plaintiff to discredit and make a quick buck (big buck) off of good people and businesses that have served the Bradenton area for decades.

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    # by Priscilla - October 7, 2009 at 5:01 PM

    Scott, you speak so ill of Christian as if you knew him personally. You are so quick to jump to conclusions and judge a child’s character of whom I am sure you never personally knew. He was only a child fulfilling a dream that he so loved and with the blink of an eye it was all swept away. Yet you do state that there are half truths. What are those truths? I believe it is 100% true. You were quick to mention all the negative opinions you have, but you certainly did not take the time to really think of what was really the truth. On the other hand you may be hiding the shadiness of those at fault for his death. I know for a fact becoming a doctor is not an easy task and as a medical student you are well prepared to confront situations, and if he did not receive the medical attention he needed it was because the doctors were too busy planning on how they were going to spend their well paid dollars. I am sure Mrs. Chalita is well aware that there is nothing in this world that will ever bring back her beloved child, so if you are attempting to judge her decision to file a law suit against those that should be held responsible you are way out of line. It would only be justice served and to potentially avoid any other situation like this to happen to an innocent child put at risk of this so well renowned school. Oh and back to those truths you brushed off, I can tell you from personal experience his death was shocking to all of us. As his cousin we shared a very close relationship and if there is anything to say about Christian he was the most loving and honest person I have ever known.

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    # by Kouklitsa - October 8, 2009 at 7:47 AM

    Not only is your comment quite frankly inappropriate but it is shokingly callous! I'd like to know how is it you came to the conclusion that this article was filled with, and I quote, "half-truths and utter lies." ???? Are you one of IMG's doctors? Are you on the defedants' payroll? How is it you make up that it is a lie, because I'll tell you what is not a lie, as an acquaintance of the victim in this case I am well aware and adequately informed to call you out and say that YOUR comment is filled with SLANDER! Not only was Chris not properly screened by the facility but our families have suffered a great deal due to this situation! No, he did not lie, not he did not conceal, and yes his history was overlooked and yes -No $ amount will ever bring Chris back nor will it take any of our pain and sufferings away, but I can assure you that it will teach those who do not abide by rules and regulations their lessons and hopefully, god permitting, not ever allowing another innocent CHILD, I may add, to ever go through this again, and all for the sakes of , oh I don't know, perhaps a big hefty tag of $70k per head!!!

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    # by Thamara - October 8, 2009 at 5:38 PM

    I will like to reply to the comment make by SOCTTY. For your information and lack of knowledge, CHRISTIAN CHALITA was an US CITIZEN Born in the CITY OF MIAMI BEACH AT THE MOUNT SINAI HOSPITAL....... So your comment about this been an OUT of COUNTRY Plaintiff is more than inappropriate and attempt to mislead a potential jury pool decision. But, in the case that Christian weren't born in this Country, that doesn't limit any person to file a Law Suit against those that should be held responsable for the deadth of an innocent child, which only mistake, was to believed that the IMG ACADEMY was the best Institution where he can fulfill his dreams as a Great Basketball Player. There for, your comment is full of lies and yes make me think, you may be under the defendants team, trying to cover his death with those type of frustated comments.

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    # by Javier Amieva - October 18, 2009 at 7:59 PM

    Professional ethics is the foundation of confidence and trust; parents who entrust their children and the future of their children are expecting ethical professionalism, consequently Bollettieri must assure to our kids safety over any other thing from the very moment of registration and acceptance to the program. We expect that all times there is constant supervision and scrutiny that ensure that the aptitude and safety of the individuals (physical in this case) is there.

    It is probable that small organizations that initiate in the sport-educational business and that do not have the experience, neither, the international presence that Bollettieri has, and perhaps with newly started organizations they could be excused an omissiondue to the lack of experience, but this is certainly not the case for Bollietteri. Scholastic institutions and those of sport professional activities should act under a strict code of ethics and they should be supervised for the state to guarantee the confidence in such institutions and ultimately more important, the protection of the individuals that remain under their care.

    Bollettieri, incurred in elementary omissions and failure to the ethics that a professional specialist in Sports should cover, especially that the medical history of the individual presented information that should have been taken into account. No professional guidelines and measures were present during the accident, and even worse there was a lack of supervision that could have saved the life of a person had such expected and necessary supervision been in place. The parents who with confidence placed their kids with Bollietterie could have signed any type of release under the misleading notion that Bollettieri, as it advertised on its website and publications, has experience and expertise in the sports fields.

    When a parent enrolls their son to a program that promises to make of him a champion in sports and that organization ( Bollietteri) shows off having great international fame, does the should the parent review and inspect all the contingency plans, including the most elemental ones?Or would it be more reasonable that based on the publicity and promises the parent should be confident and trust world recognized institutions? It is clear that the right option is the second one, we should trust in the institutions but then by the same token these organizations then have the obligation to professionally and ethically cover every aspect of its program starting from when individuals are accepted into the school until the individual graduates. Of course there is the possibility of failures and accidents, but common sense, business and law requires, for such organizations to include emergency procedures and to carry on liability insurances to cover responsibility in a case of an involuntary omission by-product of this inadequate process of admission and of special care as was this case, is but perhaps the institute should not accept the individual. Abounding but in the theme we can say that the official agencies of caution of these institutions should watch for the security of all the citizens and of the families, like us, the ones that trust the American system, of another form not just the supervising and educational agencies had failed, at the end would be the state the one who fails.

    There is not a single parent in the world who plans for their son, who has a medical history in which close relatives suffered from cardiac problems, to enroll in an athletic school so that the child will die and then the parent will be able to sue the school. In this case, the parent trusted that the organization was run in an ethical and professional manner as it claimed. But the school failed to meet the standards that it claimed to have and now should be accept its responsibility in failing to provide the protection to its students that it claimed; accepting legal responsibility is the only ethical and professional action.

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    # by Javier Amieva - October 18, 2009 at 9:19 PM

    How much the safety at our schools had changed since the article that here I reproduce?

    Herald Tribune
    Sports safety is left up to the schools

    By Chris Davis & Matthew Doig

    Published: Sunday, February 6, 2005 at 4:00 a.m.

    How safe your child is playing high school sports may depend on where you live.

    A Herald-Tribune survey of the state's 67 school districts reveals a patchwork approach to safety. Some districts have state-of-the-art equipment and trainers while others have almost nothing.

    The survey shows that:

    - The state's best-prepared schools are concentrated in large, urban districts, where there is more money to buy equipment such as portable defibrillators, which shock a person's heart back into natural rhythm.

    - Broward, Escambia, Orange, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties are the only districts that require the most modern equipment and training: certified trainers, defibrillators and CPR training for coaches. Sixteen of Florida's 67 school districts take none of those safety measures.

    - Only Escambia County provides a detailed heart examination for all high school athletes. A group of doctors gives free echocardiograms to every high school athlete.

    - More than half of the state's high schools don't have defibrillators. More than 60 percent of school districts don't require coaches to be certified in CPR.

    The discrepancies from one school district to the next result from a system of sports regulation that forces local school boards and sometimes individual coaches to pursue what they believe are the best safety policies.

    Nothing in state law mandates CPR training for schools.

    "There is no coordinated effort and I think there should be," said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, which represents school districts statewide.

    School districts that spend money on the latest equipment often do so in response to tragedy.

    Cheryl Lalloo convinced Broward and St. Lucie counties to put portable defibrillators in all high schools after her daughter, Jessica, died in 2003.

    Jessica's heart shut down during a break from cheerleading practice at St. Lucie's West Centennial High School.

    Lalloo helped Broward and St. Lucie raise the money to buy defibrillators for about $1,500 each. But too many school districts aren't willing to pay the money needed to protect student athletes, she said.

    "We can put a $40,000 scoreboard up, but we can't spend $2,000 on a defibrillator," she said.

    At least 24 teen athletes have died in Florida since 1991 (--to 2005, when this history was published--) you may find the whole list at:


    This story appeared in print on page A20