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Duerson’s estate sues NFL for wrongful death

1987 NFC Divisional Playoff Game - Washington Redskins vs Chicago Bears - January 10, 1988 Getty Images

The various concussion-related lawsuits filed in recent months have suddenly taken on a far more serious tone.  According to NBC Chicago, Dave Duerson’s estate has filed a wrongful death action against the NFL.

Duerson committed suicide on February 17, 2011.  The lawsuit claims that, “[i]f the NFL would have taken the necessary steps to oversee and protect Dave Duerson by warning him of the dangers of head traumas . . . then [he] would not have suffered dangerous repetitive head trauma, would have recovered more rapidly, and would not have sustained permanent damage to his brain which contributed to his death.”

This allegation presumes that the NFL knew or should have known about the dangers of head traumas during Duerson’s career, and that he would have chosen not to play if that information had been shared with him.

“CTE has been a known entity to the NFL for years,” said William Gibbs, who represents the Duerson estate.  “This degenerative brain disease causes various symptoms ranging from cognitive decline to dementia.   The NFL’s blatant disregard of the significance of this crisis amongst its retirees is baffling.”

“We have not seen the lawsuit and therefore our attorneys have not had an opportunity to review it,” the league said in a statement forwarded to PFT.  “Dave Duerson was an outstanding football player and
citizen who made so many positive contributions but unfortunately encountered serious personal challenges later in his life. We sympathize with the Duerson family and continue to be saddened by this tragedy.”

Hundreds of former players have filed suit against the league, claiming that the NFL knew about the long-term dangers of concussions and failed to disclose those risks to players.  The NFL has argued that relief should be pursued through the collective bargaining process, given that players have been represented by a union, the NFL Players Association.

Duerson played from 1983 through 1993, with the Bears, Giants, and Cardinals, winning a pair of Super Bowl rings.  He was one of the named plaintiffs in the Reggie White antitrust lawsuit, and he was a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee.

Last year, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said that Duerson’s death has “shaken me personally.”  The NFLPA hasn’t said anything about the various and growing concussion lawsuits.  In response to Duerson’s lawsuit, spokesman George Atallah told PFT that the NFLPA has no comment.

Given Duerson’s past role in the NFLPA, one thing to watch going forward is whether the NFLPA will take an affirmative position on the merit of the allegations that the NFL knew about the risks of head injuries and failed to take appropriate action.

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40 Responses to “Duerson’s estate sues NFL for wrongful death”
  1. skeefe1976 says: Feb 23, 2012 3:47 PM

    Won’t this suit be tossed by the Court due to Statue of Limitations?

  2. rcali says: Feb 23, 2012 3:48 PM

    My company did not warn me about the stress of the job when I accepted my current position. Line up the lawyers!!!

  3. jbcommonsense says: Feb 23, 2012 3:51 PM

    You go Dave!

  4. quittsburghstoolers says: Feb 23, 2012 3:52 PM

    Good luck to them.

    Suing the NFL is kinda like suing Walmart.

    They have the best lawyers and can afford to stall things in
    court a long time until you can’t afford to go on with the case.

    Of course, there’s a much better chance that the NFL
    may try and settle quietly out of court at some
    point. Walmart usually won’t. They seem to
    always spend the money fighting the lawsuits…

  5. medtxpack says: Feb 23, 2012 3:53 PM

    this is tragic and sad all around….

    “Hundreds of former players have filed suit against the league, claiming that the NFL knew about the long-term dangers of concussions and failed to disclose those risks to players. ”

    i find it really hard to beleive that the league knew what it knows now about head trauma.

    hoping there is a good ending to this and that peace can come to the Duerson estate and family.

  6. bigjd says: Feb 23, 2012 3:55 PM

    He could have found work elsewhere. No one forced him to play football.

  7. greggfletch1 says: Feb 23, 2012 4:10 PM

    I am sorry for his family, but any sane person knows that slamming into the ground head first or bouncning the head severly off the turf, can cause serious injury. Pro football players usually start off young. Do you realize how many injuries they have seen. If they dont know by the time they reach the Pro level that they could in an extreme case get killed on the field. I think that the NFL should start making players sign waivers. Its sad that people are so sue happy nowadays.

  8. wetpaperbag3 says: Feb 23, 2012 4:26 PM

    The problem here isn’t if the repeated concussions played a major part in his poor mental state that ended in suicide. The problem here is the precedent a ruling in favor of the plaintiff sets. This case could be that “doomsday” scenario that has been recently talked about; where the league gets buried under the mountain of lawsuits from older players claiming physical effects of undiagnosed head traumas.

    On one hand, I feel bad for the guys who played in the era when concussions were ignored by teams in order to win games. The culture was that a guy who claimed he had a concussion was then labeled as “soft”, “not a team player”, or a “wuss.” Now, those same guys are having difficulty living a normal life because of severe behavioral consequences of those repeated concussions.

    On the other hand, the game I love so much “could” go bankrupt from the justifiable lawsuits that would be filed against it.

  9. silverandblack052099 says: Feb 23, 2012 4:27 PM

    Is his family going to sue the College and High School where he played as well? The damaging hits did not occur only at the NFL level.

  10. FinFan68 says: Feb 23, 2012 4:35 PM

    Sickening money grab. Duerson was a good player and it is a shame he developed issues but to claim the NFL is responsible is absurd. He killed himself. The NFL is no more responsible than friends/family who didn’t seek the help he needed or didn’t take the necessary steps to prevent his action. See how dumb ridiculous blame sounds? These people are hurting but they should be ashamed of themselves. If Duerson’s former employer was not a multi-billion dollar industry, a wrongful death suit would not happen. They are banking on a settlement…not gonna happen.

  11. donfelder440 says: Feb 23, 2012 4:37 PM

    No, the statute of limitations won’t bar this claim. Assuming Illinois law applies (it should; this was filed in Illinois state court), wrongful death actions “accrue” (become possible) only upon the decedent’s death. So the limitations period cannot possibly begin running until the person actually dies. And in turn, that limitations period under Illinois’s wrongful death action is 2 years FROM THE DEATH. So they’ve clearly sued within the applicable limitations period.

  12. waynelock says: Feb 23, 2012 4:47 PM

    Won’t go anywhere. There are some real factual and legal causation problems with this suit. Its a media play.

  13. daltex says: Feb 23, 2012 4:48 PM

    Wrongful death statutes of limitation don’t run until the wrongful death happens. Since Duerson committed suicide in 2011, I fail to see how statutes of limitation should be a problem.

    The biggest concern for this suit is likely how they can prove the allegation that Duerson would have stopped playing football had the NFL made the dangers of the game known to him.

    Regarding the comments that any sane person would know about the dangers of impacts to the head – think again. Our knowledge of concussions is still in its infancy, and this man played his last game in a season that took place almost 20 years ago. It doesn’t matter what we know now, or what you are convinced is common sense. What matters is what the NFL knew then, and whether the proper info was relayed to the players. Not sure why people can’t understand that.

  14. kriswd40 says: Feb 23, 2012 4:51 PM

    I don’t think it’s the NFL’s responsibility to explain common sense.

  15. lethimplaycoach says: Feb 23, 2012 4:51 PM

    The NFL is in a lose-lose situation.

    Many players have said they faked concussion test results to pass, or stayed on the field injured, or went back in a game banged up, because they didn’t want to risk losing their job to another player.

    Then later, when they leave the NFL, they sue the NFL for not protecting them from themselves.

  16. mrslay1 says: Feb 23, 2012 4:55 PM

    Even if they win these rediculous law suits, Who do you people think is going to pay for it. It’s like the dumbass liberials try and make you believe, that the rich guys (in this case the NFL) will have to pay for it…WRONG… It will just be added to the price of tickets and other revenew making options. So guess who will end up paying for it????? AND THE LAWYERS WILL GET THE BULK OF THE MONEY!!! WHO WINS HERE

  17. maryannwiththeshakyhands says: Feb 23, 2012 4:56 PM

    Guess what league is going to have all kinds of new legal paperwork the rookies will have to sign before they can participate in a single practice?

  18. cincybert says: Feb 23, 2012 4:58 PM

    The person who is responsible for this wrongful death is, unfortunately, dead. Dave Duerson committed suicide.

  19. chunkyloverfiftythree says: Feb 23, 2012 5:04 PM

    There is quite a contingent of players and fans who cry about the sport being ruined with new rules designed to “protect the players.” This lawsuit makes me think of something. I can’t recall if this idea has been presented on this site, but this makes me think that new rules in the NFL are designed to protect the NFL more than the players. The older generations of players have been in the news a lot the past couple of years, concerning efforts to get a larger share of the money-pie. In our litigious society, it seems logical that even players who “knew the risks” will file suits as their health deteriorates. Even if you know the risks, when you are young you often lack the foresight or prudence to avoid “the risks.” Regardless of what health care issue you are talking about, many older people look back on certain things and wish they were a bit more careful. I am sure current and future retirees will feel the same. And when your former employer is a 9 billion dollar a year industry and growing, you may try and shift some of onus back on to them. So next time you blame Goodell or the owners for *ahem* “wussy football,” think about the role guys like Duerson and other retirees are having instead.

  20. dacapt704 says: Feb 23, 2012 5:06 PM

    Sad story and not to sound heartless but even had he known its highly debateable that he would have stopped playing.

    As many player polls have revealed, most players will KNOWINGLY hide a concusssion to stay on the field so…that shows these men knew the inherent risks of playing a dangerous sport, thus the higher than average salaries they are paid. The family has no leg to stand on here

    R.I.P. Dave Duerson though…

  21. sbad1985 says: Feb 23, 2012 5:06 PM

    Football is a brutal sport. There have been football players crippled, paralyzed and in college and high school there have been a few deaths over the years. There is no answer to this unless they move to a “touch football” or “flag football” game. And that is not going to happen. It is what it is. A brutal sport.

  22. yzguy431 says: Feb 23, 2012 5:08 PM

    sadly, it took a lot of broken brains, backs, knees, and hips to grow this billion dollar industry.

  23. Bearfan54 says: Feb 23, 2012 5:15 PM

    Football is about to get really expensive for us to watch.

  24. gb4mn0 says: Feb 23, 2012 5:23 PM

    Instead of the worthless Dummycrap Senators worrying about garnering votes by forcing the NFL to lift their blackout policy they should be worrying about the billions taken from our economy each year to both settle and cover the expense of these hair brain lawsuits. TORT Reform. But that’s never going to happen as long as the bottom feeding blood suckers from the American Trial Lawyers are allowed to contribute millions to their campaign coffers.

  25. stercuilus65 says: Feb 23, 2012 5:29 PM

    skeefe1976 says: Feb 23, 2012 3:47 PM

    “Won’t this suit be tossed by the Court due to Statue of Limitations?”

    ——————-

    Where is this “statue”. Why are people tossing things because of it?

  26. hawkforlife says: Feb 23, 2012 5:40 PM

    Does any football player stop when shown a film of Darryl Stingley? None that I ever heard of yet the evidence is right there in front of them.

    If they won’t stop for that then why would they stop for an unseen result.

  27. danno1212 says: Feb 23, 2012 5:51 PM

    I am a Bears fan, and I loved watching DD play, even when he went to the Giants. If someone wants to try to sue the NFL thats their right, but what about the Union, If the NFL should have known the risks, shouldn’t the Union have known as well, and shouldnt they have known first? Don’t people pay dues to a union so they can have someone looking out for their rights and safety?

  28. tdk24 says: Feb 23, 2012 5:58 PM

    When will this end? Let’s see, they tell him he can have an average head, or, he can makes lot’s of bucks, be a hero, popular with the chics, and never have to work again in his life, but might have some long term bodily injury. You know which one he’ll choose. And he’ll choose it every single time. Take some responsibility for yourself and quit blaming others! Nothing worth having comes easy, and there’s a trade off for everything. Once you accept that, you’ll learn that life is not fair. Now, move along, move along.

  29. mrslay1 says: Feb 23, 2012 6:03 PM

    Call me crazy… But what you said here is a big thing. This is why Mike Leach should take his case to the US Supreme Court. As it stands, a school, being a public (goverment) institution, can not be sued in such a matter. They get away with what ever they want and business has to pay the price. If Texas Tech had to pay for what was a real wrongfull action, then I bet Tort reform would get a better look! These cases have to stop!

  30. thraiderskin says: Feb 23, 2012 7:00 PM

    How rediculous… pretty sure suicide could have been avoided by putting down the gun. There is no gray area here or gray matter.

  31. greatminnesotasportsmind says: Feb 23, 2012 7:03 PM

    Nobody knew the effects of concussions back then like they do today. Duarson’s family should be ashamed of how low they are going in attempt to get a few more bucks.

  32. voyager6 says: Feb 23, 2012 7:22 PM

    Why stop at suing the NFL? Why not sue the NFLPA as well, as didn’t they bargain the rules that caused the game to be so dangerous? The Helmut equipment companies are liable, too.

  33. donfelder440 says: Feb 23, 2012 7:22 PM

    Assume the worst and some of these arguably specious suits go against the NFL and actually hurt its bottom line. I don’t think the NFL lobbyists will stand idly by, and I can see some pro sport/pro football-specific tort reform (perhaps even on the federal level) get enacted.

  34. Waffle 2.0 says: Feb 23, 2012 8:26 PM

    Apparently CTE also causes businessmen to take unnecessary risks and go bankrupt which then causes them to become stressed and beat their wife and drink their faces off.

    CTE is real but so is reaching the heights of glory only to see your life crash because of bad decisions. Depression sets in and they blame it on the NFL?

    The guy was a success all his life and then started failing badly in his post football life. Simple explanation.

  35. therealjr says: Feb 23, 2012 8:51 PM

    I think it’s time this country stopped forcing people to play football. It’s just not right.

  36. judsonjr says: Feb 23, 2012 8:53 PM

    I had concussions from hitting my head on a concrete playground in grade school. Should I sue the school?

    Was it safe? Not really…but it’s just the way things were at that time. These days a lot of kids have cushioned rubberized surfaces to play on because of technological advances.

  37. mrslay1 says: Feb 23, 2012 9:17 PM

    You are so right. You would think in a free country you would be able to play or not by your own decision. Those poor guys!

  38. nobamano says: Feb 23, 2012 11:56 PM

    This is really serious. If an employee could seek compensation civilly decades after leaving his place of employment, the fear of liability could be more than marginally successful companies could be willing to risk. Imagine a 70 year old secretary with a bad back suing her former boss 30 years after she retired. Suppose she was merely a book keeper at the local grocery store. The owner was mildly successful and set her up with a nice 401K because she was “like part of the family.” 20 years later, the old man dies and the heir gets greased for 55% by Obama’s syndicate (IRS). 10 years later, as junior is finally catching up, BAM, Mrs Nussbaum and her fancy lawyer slaps Sonny with a 7 figure lawsuit! Sell the business, invest in gold Maples and retire to Costa, junior! QUICK like!!

  39. nobamano says: Feb 24, 2012 12:06 AM

    voyager6 says: Feb 23, 2012 7:22 PM

    Why stop at suing the NFL? Why not sue the NFLPA as well, as didn’t they bargain the rules that caused the game to be so dangerous? The Helmut equipment companies are liable, too.

    Let me add to your sarcasm: And why not his College? And the City that ran the HS he attended! And the PAP Warner coach when he was 8 years old! And his thoughtless, unconcerned parents who let (could be made into “made” in court) the dude play football as a kid. In fact, his parents are doubly responsible for passing on inferior genes that contributed to these problems. On second thought, none of the others got the kind a scratch the NFL has and, after all, that’s the important part! As a Bears die-hard, I loved the dude, but come on, this is ridiculous.

  40. vetdana says: Feb 24, 2012 10:50 PM

    NFL Fans…I have heard a number of Sports Attorneys discuss the implications of these concussion lawsuits against the NFL and what it could mean for the future of the League. In a nutshell…if these suites result in large settlements against the League, no insurance companies are going to underwrite business with the NFL because of the risk for loss.This…along with the resultant fallout, that would keep potential players from entering the NFL [no or, fewer college football programs because of the health risks]…would all result in a collapse of the NFL…..regardless of its popularity! None of us wants this but…Greed and the fight for the almighty dollar could bring the end to the sport we all love !

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