Bakersfield Track Club speaks out after death of Benjamin Greene

First death in 30-year history of Summer Series
Posted at 6:52 PM, Jun 22, 2017

After local attorney Benjamin Greene collapsed and later died after a 5k at Hart Park, the Bakersfield Track Club is responding to the idea they weren't prepared.

Friends and family of Greene have been asking why the club, who put on the event, didn't take more precautions to protect runners.

The club says they did all they could.

"We did everything we possibly could in that situation," says Margaret Patteson of the Bakersfield Track Club after the first death at their Summer Series in its 30-year history.

One of the biggest complaints after Greene's death was regarding the lack of paramedics in the near-110 degree heat. Patteson says that having an ambulance on standby wasn't an option, according to what they were told.

"We can't really ask for an ambulance to be at one of our events because it takes an ambulance out of circulation in the community, and the direction we've been given is if you need an ambulance call an ambulance," Patteson said.

Another complaint: the club didn't have defibrillators on hand for emergencies. Patteson says that's because AEDs cost upwards of $3,000, a fifth of the non-profit's $15,000 annual budget. A law also would require the club to keep volunteers trained and ready to use the AED; with so many volunteers cycling in and out, Patteson says it would be very difficult to do.

If this were ever to go to court, a local attorney says that the club might be safe due to the fact that Greene signed a waiver before the race that could effectively waive the club from responsibility.

Neil Gehlawat of Chain Cohn Stiles in downtown Bakersfield says he's seen a lot of cases that have to do with signed releases.

"The hurdles in those cases mirror the hurdles that will be there in these cases, which is the release, the assumption of the risk doctrine, and whether or not any of the conduct on the part of the defendant is grossly negligent," Gehlawat said.

The assumption of risk doctrine, which could be used in a court, essentially says that Greene knew what he was getting into when he decided to run in the nearly record-breaking Bakersfield heat.

Legal action will depend in part on the results of the autopsy, which have not been released at this point.