More than 4,500 sports figures suffering from traumatic brain injuries each get a small portion of the $756 million paid out by the National Football League (NFL). The settlement keeps relevant documentation out of court.
The NFL was mostly known for the caliber of its players. Now, it is known for hiding the risks of athletes sustaining multiple head injuries while scrimmaging on the field, head injuries that resulted in traumatic brain injury (TBI), also referred to as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
It was a large settlement, and one that was hailed as progress for those who sued the NFL for negligently withholding information about the risks of multiple head traumas. However, this is not the end of the issue. While the out-of-court settlement did pay out a large sum, it also managed to keep exculpatory documentation out of court. It also meant no one heard what witnesses had to say.
Down the line, every sport that involves full-body contact of some kind, will, without a doubt, face the same or similar concussion litigation. It is not beyond reason to anticipate that the NHL, NBA, MLB, and the NCAA may face such lawsuits. In fact, the NCAA is already facing down a massive TBI lawsuit.
TBI litigation began with the NFL. It is now making its presence felt with lawsuits filed by survivors of hockey players who took their own lives as a result of CTE. A case in point is that of 28-year-old Derek Boogaard’s family launching a wrongful death lawsuit alleging the NHL is responsible for his brain trauma and addiction to pain drugs. The defendants in that suit are the NHL, its Board of Governors and well-known league commissioner, Gary Bettman.
If the attorney handling that case is able to prove that the NHL was negligent in the way they treated Boogaard in relation to handing out painkillers and encouraging him to fight, sustaining multiple head injuries, the case stands a chance of opening the floodgates of litigation for other similar lawsuits. There is also the possibility of an extremely large award for damages.
What may tell the tale of success is the evidence in the complaint that includes, but is not limited to, the fact that NHL staff and doctors allegedly wrote him prescriptions for 432 pills of hydrocodone in one month, injected him 13 times with a pain masking drug, wrote him further prescriptions for 1,021 pain pills and encouraged him, in his role of enforcer, to instigate 66 fights over 277 games, sustaining multiple head injuries. His autopsy showed he had Stage II CTE.
The CTE revelation and Boogaard’s treatment are strikingly similar to how many of the NFL players were treated. Should Boogaard’s wrongful death lawsuit be successful, watch for more lawsuits of a similar nature filed against other leagues.