In a previous post about sports-related brain injuries, we mentioned that many stories about concussions and other traumatic brain injuries have been making the news in recent months and years. In fact, the family of Junior Seau, a former San Diego Chargers linebacker, filed suit this year against the National Football League (NFL) in the California Superior Court in San Diego. The Seaus are also suing Riddell Inc., a helmet manufacturer for negligence in “design, testing, assembly, manufacture, marketing, and engineering of the helmets.”
The plaintiffs in the California suit are “listed as Gina Seau, Junior’s ex-wife; Junior’s children Tyler, Sydney, Jake, and Hunter; and Bette Hoffman, trustee of Seau’s estate.” In addition to the claim filed in San Diego, Seau’s parents recently filed another wrongful-death suit in Pennsylvania. As of just a few days ago, the two claims were consolidated in Philadelphia, according to Pennsylvania’s local ABC 10 News. Philadelphia alone has seen “more than 100 concussion lawsuits” against the NFL.
Seau played for 20 seasons in the NFL, and ESPN described him as “one of the best linebackers” throughout his NFL tenure.
The claims relate to Seau’s posthumous diagnosis with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that led to the former linebacker’s self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In the final years of his life, Seau “went through wild behavior swings,” which included symptoms of “irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia, and depression.”
Claims Against the NFL
According to ESPN News, Seau’s family “blames the NFL for its acts or omissions that hid the dangers of repetitive blows to the head,” and the family argues that those hits caused Seau to develop CTE.
In addition, the Seau family is accusing the NFL of “glorifying the violence in pro football,” which they argue has created “the impression that delivering big hits is a badge of courage which does not seriously threaten one’s health.”
As a result of CTE, Seau experienced severe depression, and he took his own life in May 2012 at the age of 43. As we’ve mentioned previously, CTE can only be diagnosed after death. Following Seau’s autopsy, a study of his brain showed that he was in fact suffering from this dangerous condition.
Seau’s is not the only case of CTE in the NFL by a long shot. In fact, an Associated Press review from November 2012 discovered that “more than 3,800 players have sued the NFL over head injuries in at least 175 cases” as the long-term effects of sports-related brain injuries have become clearer to players and the public alike.
The NFL’s Response
The NFL continues to deny the allegations in the Seau family’s lawsuit, as well as other similar allegations. After the NFL learned that Junior Seau had been posthumously diagnosed with CTE, it released a statement that emphasized its interest in player safety. The league insisted that it is “committed to supporting a wide range of independent medical and scientific research that will both address CTE and promotes the long-term health and safety of athletes at all levels.” The NFL went on to explain that it works in close partnerships with the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Currently, the league “wants the claims heard in arbitration,” but lawyers for former NFL players hope to keep the question of NFL liability for CTE and wrongful deaths in federal court. A hearing on this question is scheduled for April 9.
If you or a loved one may be experiencing symptoms of CTE following traumatic brain injury, you may have a claim. Contact an experienced attorney today to discuss your case.