Former NFL players combine concussion suits
A massive concussion-related lawsuit that bundles the cases of more than 2,000 former National Football League players and their families was filed in federal court in Philadelphia on Thursday.
The allegations are not new, but Thursday’s filing is an attempt to bring together more than 80 cases alleging the NFL was negligent in its handling of players. Those players are alleging they suffer from a series of illnesses, including dementia, other forms of brain damage, Alzheimer’s disease, insomnia and depression.
Some former Green Bay Packers included are LeRoy Butler, Mark Chmura, Dorsey Levens, Tiger Greene, Santana Dotson, Ed West and Don Majkowski.
“The NFL, as the organizer, marketer and face of the most popular sport in the United States, in which mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) is a regular occurrence and in which players are at risk for MTBI, was aware of the evidence and the risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries virtually at the inception, but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information from the plaintiffs and all others who participated in organized football at all levels,” the complaint says.
The complaint says that, like boxing, the NFL “was aware of the health risks associated with repetitive blows producing sub-concussive and concussive results and the fact that some members of the NFL player population were at significant risk of developing long-term brain damage and cognitive decline as a result.
“Despite its knowledge and controlling role in governing player conduct on and off the field, the NFL turned a blind eye to the risk and failed to warn and/or impose safety regulations governing this well-recognized health and safety problem.”
In a national teleconference with reporters, Kevin Turner, a former running back with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles who has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), said he loved playing football and wants it to prosper.
“But let’s face it and be honest,” he said. “I feel like the NFL has over the past couple of decades, at least until 2008 and 2009, kind of turned a blind eye to the seriousness of not only concussions and subsequent concussion hits and the cumulative effect of those, and how these retired players are having so much difficulty in getting along in their daily lives.”
Mary Ann Easterling, widow of former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, who committed suicide in April after suffering for years from dementia, said she noticed her husband was having problems about five years ago. She said her husband suffered insomnia and depression and then had trouble organizing things.
“When the insomnia and depression hit, it was like a switch was flipped,” she said. “He no longer enjoyed being around his family. He no longer enjoyed doing the things he always enjoyed.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league’s legal team “will review today’s filing that is intended to consolidate plaintiffs’ existing claims into one ‘master’ complaint. The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so. Any allegation that the NFL sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league’s many actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”
McCarthy said in an email that the NFL provided a series of medical benefits to many former NFL players to help them after they retire. Those benefits include joint replacement, neurological evaluations and spine treatment programs, assisted living partnerships, long-term care insurance, prescription benefits, life insurance programs, and a Medicare supplement program.
McCarthy said that, in partnership with the NFLPA, more than a billion dollars had been spent to provide pensions and medical and disability benefits for former players.