On the heels of the disclosure that linebacker Junior Seau suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy when he committed suicide in May 2012, Seau’s family is now suing the NFL for wrongful death.
The suit was filed Wednesday in California Superior Court.
The NFL likely will move swiftly to shift the case to federal court and then to consolidate it with the thousands of claims pending in federal court in Philadelphia. The league’s threshold argument will be, as it has been in every concussion case, that any remedies for failure to warn players about the risks of concussions or to protect them from concussions must be pursued under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The claim also could have a problem under the statute of limitations. While scientific examination of his brain tissue only recently revealed the existence of CTE, the NFL likely will argue that Seau knew or should have known that he had legal rights that were potentially violated by the NFL more than two years before the date of the filing of the lawsuit.
While the concussion lawsuits draw headlines and drive web traffic, it’s important to remember that these cases are not slam dunks. Even if a jury ever is in position to assess whether the league failed to do enough to warn or protect players from concussions, there will be jurors who are inclined to believe that the players would have done nothing differently even if they had been warned.