Ex-players reply to NFL’s motion to dismiss cases
Arguing that ”football has become the site of perhaps the
gravest health crisis in the history of sports,” lawyers for
thousands of former NFL players asked a judge to reject the
league’s bid to dismiss their lawsuits about concussions.
In a brief filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in
Philadelphia, the players dispute the league’s framing of the cases
as a labor issue that should be governed by the sport’s collective
bargaining agreements instead of the legal system.
Among the players’ arguments: Relevant CBAs did not address
long-term brain injuries, the NFL committed fraud by concealing
risks of repeated head trauma, and the league has a common-law duty
to protect players.
”The NFL knew that players were exposed to risks of severe
neurological injuries, yet did nothing to prevent them,” the brief
says, adding that the league ”failed to warn players about the
dangers of concussive and sub-concussive impacts,” did not
advocate preventative rule changes and did not ”implement
equipment standards adapted for head trauma.”
The league filed its motion to dismiss the lawsuits in August
and now will have the chance to respond to the players’ reply. The
NFL repeatedly has stated publicly it did not intentionally mislead
players and has tried to better protect their health.
More than 100 concussion lawsuits against the NFL have been
brought together before U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody. Unless
Brody agrees to dismiss them, or an umbrella settlement is reached,
she probably would decide what evidence can be used at trial,
whether a class can be certified for medical monitoring and other
pretrial issues. The cases might then return to their home
districts for trial.
In its motion two months ago, the NFL argued that the CBAs cover
safety and health rules – while delegating to individual teams and
their doctors the decisions about players’ conditions and when they
should return to play. The league also said the former players’
suits lack specific proof that medical links between concussions
and brain disease were concealed.
The players’ response Wednesday says ”a party cannot shirk its
own duty by pointing to the duties of others” and that the ”NFL
deceived club doctors (as well as players) by insisting repeatedly
that head trauma carried little long-term risk for football
Wednesday’s brief argues that the NFL ”orchestrated a
disinformation campaign” and says: ”On the NFL’s watch, football
has become the site of perhaps the gravest health crisis in the
history of sports.”
According to an Associated Press analysis, a total of more than
3,500 former players – including at least 26 members of the Pro
Football Hall of Fame – have sued the NFL, saying not enough was
done to inform them about the dangers of concussions in the past,
and not enough is being done today to take care of them. The
complete number of plaintiffs in those cases tops 5,000, counting
spouses and other relatives or representatives.
The lead plaintiff in one of the earliest concussion lawsuits
filed against the NFL last year, former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray
Easterling, committed suicide in April at age 62. An autopsy found
he had the degenerative brain disease CTE, or chronic traumatic
encephalopathy. His widow remains a plaintiff.
Other players have told the AP they returned to play after hits
that left them with concussions and regularly were given
painkillers by team doctors before games.
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Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and