Deceased NHL Player’s Parents File $9.8 Million Lawsuit

Derek Boogaard’s parents were mourning the loss of their son, who played for the NHL, from an overdose of drugs and alcohol, and now were suing to get the millions owed from their son’s contract with the New York Rangers.

Boogaard was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment on May 13, 2011. The medical examiner determined that Boogaard died from an accidental overdose of the drug oxycodone mixed with alcohol.

The family is suing the National Hockey League Player’s Association (NHLPA) because the Player’s Association failed to file a grievance with the league by the required deadline regarding the money remaining on their son’s contract.

The lawsuit claims that the NHLPA failed to take the proper steps to help the family collect the balance on Boogaard’s NHL contract after he died. The lawsuit claims the 28-year-old was addicted to prescription pills at the time of his death…partly because he was prescribed “a multitude of narcotics and sleeping pills by both team doctors, physicians, trainers, and dentists of the N.Y. Rangers and Minnesota Wild.” So because Derek’s parents believe that the NHL teams are partly responsible for their son’s death, they turned to the NHLPA, which promised to help them file a grievance to get the Rangers to pay out the rest of Derek’s multimillion dollar, four year contract with the team.

When he died, he still had $4.8 million left on his contract with the Rangers. The family is seeking that amount plus $5 million in punitive damages.

“It is irrational for this union to believe that a grievance should not be filed over the nonpayment of the balance to one of its member’s standard player contract when the union is aware that a team or teams bear responsibility for the player’s death,” part of the lawsuit reads.

Derek Boogaard had played six seasons in the NHL and was known as an “enforcer” and physical player, totaling up 589 penalty minutes in 277 career games. He played left-winger but was known more for his fighting skills.  By the time he signed his four-year contract in July 2010, he already had an addiction to narcotics and sleeping pills, prescribed by team doctors to treat “numerous blows to the head,” that came with the job, according to the complaint filed by his parents in Superior Court.

In December 2011, a New York Times series entitled “Punched Out,” describes how Boogaard had become manic and lonely, living with constant headaches and lapses in memory. His friends and family had noticed a marked change in his easy going personality.

The head labor attorney for the NHL Player’s Union, Roman Stoykewych, advised Boogaard’s parents about the compensation they could expect from their son’s Rangers contract following Derek’s death.

“That on July 27, 2011 defendant Stoykewych knowing that the New York Rangers and the Minnesota Wild had previously prescribed narcotics to Derek Boogaard knowing the cause of death; and knowing that the New York Rangers would not be paying anything further on the player’s SPC (standard player contract) wrote to William Daily, deputy commissioner of the NHL, and demanded documentation including medical records to be used in a grievance to enforce payment under the SPC if necessary,” his parents claim.

According to the complaint, Stoykewych promised he would take “legal action” to secure compensation for the parents after the league allegedly delayed release of the medical records.  As of the start of the 2011-12 NHL season, the Boogaard’s still did not receive payment from the Rangers.

Eventually, the couple learned that pay disputes must follow a grievance procedure. This can only be filed by the NHL or the players union and must be filed within 60 days, according to the complaint.

“At no time prior to the expiration of the sixty day period did Roman Stoykewych request that the NHLPA or did the NHLPA file a grievance on behalf of the plaintiffs and against the New York Rangers for failure to pay Derek Boogaard’s salary for the 2011-2012 season and beyond, or any other grievance on behalf of the plaintiffs,” the Boogaards say.

So because of the union’s delay, the Boogaards say they missed out on the $4.8 million left in their late son’s contract with the Rangers.

In addition to that sum, they are seeking $5 million in punitive damages from the National Hockey League Players Association and Stoykewych. The complaint alleges breach of duty of fair dealing, breach of implied contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

This is such an unfortunate, tragic story. If the union was aware that their own team doctors were prescribing narcotics and sleeping pills to their player, which ultimately led to his death, they should try to do whatever they can to give the family what is owed to them. If there was a procedure to follow regarding grievances, the family should have been advised, instead of mislead.

Do you think the family has a right to their son’s multi-million dollar contract?

Feel free to comment on this blog post.  Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).   

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