Photo courtesy of nytimes.com
Former professional football players have launched a lawsuit against the National Football League, or NFL, holding the members of the organization responsible for actively promoting and profiting from a culture of violence that has led to multiple severe injuries for players each year. New Orleans personal injury attorneys say that, depending on U.S. District Judge Anita Brody’s decision, the case could initiate a widespread, and lasting, change in one of America’s favorite sports.
About 4,200 of the 12,000 former NFL players are involved in the lawsuit. Many of them are living with serious medical complications that they attribute to their careers on national teams–dementia, depression, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease to name a few. In the last few years, the NFL has seen a tragic increase in the number of former players committing suicide, such as the deaths last year of Pro Bowler Junior Seau and Atlanta safety Ray Easterling.
Leading the lawsuit are the injured players and their families, together with former players who fear that they too will develop these debilitating diseases, and want their health to be monitored. They claim that the competitive nature of the league and of the game itself offered them no time to recover after head injuries that led to concussions. They were forced back into the game, to go out and repeatedly risk more blows to the head on the field.
Personal injury attorneys in New Orleans report that doctors and scientists have learned more about the human brain and the effects of concussions over the last several years, which led to the development of the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee in 1994. In the lawsuit, the players’ leading lawyer, David Frederick, blames the NFL for deliberately “concealing” the new information available, calling the Brain Injury committee a “sham committee designed [to] spread misinformation.”
The NFL has been trying to shift blame to the lower levels, claiming that a player’s individual team is responsible for his health and well-being. Their lawyers cite the language of the contracts between teams and players, and the standard level of care at every game. “The clubs…had doctors on the sidelines who had primary responsibility for sending players back into the game,” NFL attorney Paul Clement said. But the lawsuit is aimed more on the organization’s silence when it comes to latent head injuries, and their focus on profit and player performance over well-being.
Judge Brody will issue a ruling in the coming months concerning whether the trial belongs in arbitration or the courtroom. The main concern is the contracts, which may explicitly identify who is responsible for specific health and safety measures on the field. Some personal injury lawsuits can go to arbitration, if the parties have a contract dictating that they must work out legal issues in arbitration rather than the courts. In this case, the arbitration ruling would make for a shorter trial, but would not get at the negligent activity the former players say the NFL has committed.
At New Orleans law firm Bloom Legal, Seth Bloom, a leading personal injury lawyer, represents anyone suffering from head and brain trauma inflicted while working. Bloom legal will be monitoring this specific lawsuit, to see if its outcome may set precedents for future cases.