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

players.”

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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