The ex-wife and four children of Junior Seau filed a wrongful death lawsuit in California Superior Court in San Diego against the National Football League (NFL) and against helmet manufacturer Riddell.
The suit blames the NFL for its “acts or omissions” that hid the dangers of repetitive blows to the head. It accuses the NFL of deliberately ignoring and concealing evidence of the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries.
An examination by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke determined that Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has been previously found in the autopsies of people who have suffered repetitive head injuries, including athletes who played contact sports, people who suffered multiple concussions, as well as military veterans exposed to blast injuries.
Seau died at the age of 43 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest in May, following his 20-year career in the NFL.
An Associated Press review in November found that more than 3,800 players have sued the NFL regarding head injuries in approximately 175 cases, as the concussion issues have gained more attention in the past few years. There are about 6,000 plaintiffs when spouses, relatives and other representatives are included.
Seau’s son said that his father suffered wild mood swings, irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression that got progressively worse over time.
The AP included some of the claims of negligence made in the lawsuit: “The NFL knew or suspected that any rule changes that sought to recognize that link (to brain disease) and the health risk to NFL players would impose an economic cost that would significantly and adversely change the profit margins enjoyed by the NFL and its teams,” the lawsuit says, according to the report.
The lawsuit also alleges that helmets manufactured by Riddell Inc. and its Van Nuys-based parent company, Easton-Bell Sports, were “negligent in their design, testing, assembly, manufacture, marketing, and engineering of the helmets” used by NFL players. The suit says the helmets were unreasonably dangerous and unsafe.
In an interesting twist, the suit also places part of the blame on NFL Films for some of its videos, saying that they promote violence: “In 1993’s ‘NFL Rocks,’ Junior Seau offered his opinion on the measure of a punishing hit: ‘If I can feel some dizziness, I know that guy is feeling double that,” the suit said, according to the AP.
The NFL had previously denied that it misled players on safety issues.
The Seau’s are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. His family said, “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.”
Although Seau’s suicide was a great tragedy, it serves as an important legal issue for the league and its ex-players. It will be interesting to see how all the concussion research, as well as other head trauma research, is conducted, and we learn more about it’s impact in the sports world.
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