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NFL seeks to dismiss concussion multi-district litigation

By: CORREY E STEPHENSON//September 14, 2012//

NFL seeks to dismiss concussion multi-district litigation

By: CORREY E STEPHENSON//September 14, 2012//

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Hitting back in the multi-district litigation brought by current and former professional football players alleging injuries from head trauma, the National Football League has filed a motion to dismiss the suits as “labor disputes” preempted by federal law.

As expected, the NFL argued that the case should be dismissed because the claims are covered by the players’ collective bargaining agreements.

The MDL contains two classes of plaintiffs: a group of former players seeking medical monitoring and future care related to brain trauma, and plaintiffs bringing injury and death claims on behalf of players who are already suffering, or suffered, from neurological symptoms following head-impact injuries.

The suits argue that the NFL not only concealed from players and the public its knowledge of the causal relationship between concussions and permanent neurological disease, but also ramped up its efforts as the science began to substantiate the link.

According to the master MDL complaint, the NFL knew as early as 1928 of the devastating effects of repeated head trauma not just on football players but on players of other sports as well.

But the League fired back, arguing that the MDL is effectively a labor dispute governed by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, which preempts all state law claims that “substantially depend upon” or “arise under” collective bargaining agreements.

Because the NFL’s collective bargaining agreements cover health and safety rules for the League, the suits are preempted, the League argued.

“To the extent that plaintiffs have a claim addressing injuries incurred during their NFL careers, that claim may only proceed pursuant to the grievance procedures set forth in the [collective bargaining agreements],” according to the motion.

The NFL noted that other federal courts have reached similar conclusions in suits brought by players alleging personal injury.

The Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for the MDL called the motion “the NFL’s effort to avoid accountability for its misconduct.”

In a statement, the Committee said: “For years, the NFL actively concealed the risks associated with repetitive head impacts, denied the consensus of medical experts, and ignored public health issues associated with permanent brain damage from repetitive head trauma. At the same time, the NFL glorified and profited from violence that they knew was dangerous and life-threatening to its players.”

An estimated 3,000 individual suits are part of the MDL.

Retired players who could be included in the medical monitoring class could reach 21,000 based on testimony given by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.


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