The National Football League (NFL) is being hit with a growing number of lawsuits filed by former NFL players and their families blaming the league for dementia and other brain diseases linked to repeated concussions.
At least four such lawsuits representing more than 300 retired NFL players and their families are being consolidated for multidistrict litigation in Philadelphia, and many more lawsuits could join before the cases go to trial. The lawsuits will be heard by Senior Federal Judge Anita Brody.
After reviewing requests for consolidation by the NFL and plaintiffs’ lawyers, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation found the four complaints had enough in common factually that consolidating them would “eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pre-trial rulings; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.”
“(This) allows Judge Brody to now bring everybody together and put this in an organized environment where all the legal issues and the medical issues and the scientific issues can all be decided in one place,” one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers told the Associated Press.
According to the Miami Herald, “The decision sets the stage for a fierce legal showdown in Philadelphia between the NFL and many of its former players, including past Dolphins Mark Duper, Oronde Gadsden, Patrick Surtain, Lamar Thomas and Woody Bennett.”
Altogether, more than 600 former players and their families have sued the NFL over repeated blows to the head, which they allege have led to a spectrum of health problems, including migraine headaches, memory loss, cognitive decline, mood swings, and depression. Clinical studies indicate repeated concussions over time can have a cumulative effect on the brain that may manifest later in life in the form of Alzheimer’s, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Several of the plaintiffs claim the NFL has known about the serious dangers of concussions for nearly 100 years, but it withheld that information from players, coaches, trainers, and the general public until June 2010. To support that claim, they point to the establishment of the NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee several years ago, which was charged with monitoring the risk of multiple concussions and studying their effect on the long-term health of players.
But instead of helping players, one lawsuit contends that the committee published false, distorted and deceiving findings that the risk was minimal in order to deceive Congress, players, and the public.