Some legal experts are comparing concussion-related lawsuits from current and former National Football League players to the ones smokers made against tobacco companies 15 years ago. Legal experts say the players are using a similar argument that smokers made: An organization knew about the dangers of the product/sport, but hid the information from those at risk.
More than 3,700 plaintiffs in 95 concussion-related lawsuits want the NFL to acknowledge that it knew players with concussions could have sustained traumatic brain injuries, but did everything to suppress or hide those facts from athletes.
Analysts have compared the NFL complaints to lawsuits filed for smokers against tobacco companies in the 1990s. They say the stakes could be just as high as the $200 billion-plus settlement tobacco makers had to pay. But the NFL’s advantage, unlike the reviled tobacco businesses, is that professional football is the country’s most popular sport.
The NFL is charged with negligence for ignoring or downplaying head injuries that led some ex-players to experience serious later-life symptoms of brain damage and conditions, including dementia. The football governing body formed the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee in 1994, but some former football players say the gesture was too little and too late.
NFL officials maintain that the league spent billions of dollars on disability benefits and pensions and set up health care programs for the use of current players and ex-athletes. Some legal analysts believe the NFL may not be held liable because football is an inherently dangerous sport. The league also argues that some players might have been injured before joining the NFL.
A decision may come as soon as next month over whether the plaintiffs’ concussion complaints will ever reach a courtroom. NFL attorneys are expected to file a motion to dismiss the case, based on a conflict between federal labor laws and a players’ union collective bargaining agreement.
We will continue to provide updates on the litigation as they become available.
Source: Associated Press, “Concussion Lawsuits Are Next Big US Litigation,” Greg Risling, June 30, 2012