Shortly after the medical findings that the brain of Junior Seau showed to have Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE when he committed suicide in May of 2012, the family of Seau has now filed a wrongful death suit against the NFL on Wednesday in California Superior Court.
The suit alleges that the NFL failed to protect Junior Seau from the long-term dangers of taking repeated hits to the head. Riddell, the football helmet maker, is also named as a defendant in the suit, alleging negligence in the design and testing of the helmet, claiming they were deemed to be unsafe for play.
Junior Seau, who played in the NFL for 20 years with the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots was never listed or reported as having been diagnosed with a concussion at any point during his career.
However, the suit states Seau played through pain and injuries year after year.
“We were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate, suffered from CTE,” the family said in a statement. “While Junior always expected to have aches and pains from his playing days, none of us ever fathomed that he would suffer a debilitating brain disease that would cause him to leave us too soon. We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations.”
The suit states that the NFL was aware of the evidence and risks associated with repeated traumatic brain injuries for many decades, but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information from the players, including Junior Seau.
The NFL will likely try to merge the Seau case to federal court to consolidate it with the thousands of other suits filed by former NFL players that are currently pending.
The problem the NFL and the former NFL players who are filing suit are facing a couple of legal and moral issues.
The league argues that any failures by NFL to warn players about the risks of concussion and brain trauma must be pursued under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
There is also a question about the status of limitations. Even though the examination findings of CTE in the brain of Junior Seau were found only recently the NFL will counter that Seau should have known he had legal rights that were potentially violated by the NFL two years before the filing date, according to Mike Florio of www.proftootballtalk.com
The NFL has only in recent years acknowledged that repeated head trauma can cause long-term effects, a stark contrast from an HBO Real Sports episode in 2007, one of the earliest segments involving the risks of repeated concussions and long term head trauma, where the NFL said the players aren’t in any greater risk. Starting at the 3:40 mark, the contradicting statements from then and now are very revealing and at times quite shocking.
Once Congress became involved in October of 2009, their tune changed significantly.
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