The complaint filed by the estate and four children of linebacker Junior Seau contains claims and allegations typical of the thousands of other concussion lawsuits. For example, the lawsuit refers to the NFL’s glorification of violent play via videos sold by NFL Films, quoting Seau from a 1993 offering in which he says, “If I can feel some dizziness, I know that guy is feeling double [that].”
But the lawsuit contains a lengthy and detailed explanation of the symptoms Seau suffered in the years prior to his death. The complaint explains that, as early as the mid-1990s, Seau was demonstrating “dizziness and other symptoms of concussion,” with a “noted change in his behavior and functioning.” He began, according to the lawsuit, to become “erratic,” and he showed “emotional instability.” The complaints refers to persistent insomnia dating back to the mid-1990s, and contends that he became “forgetful and unable to concentrate or focus.”
“Both at work and at home, people noticed that he could not remember their discussions, he misplaced things and forgot appointments,” the complaint alleges.
Seau also began to demonstrate “self-destructive, aggressive and violent behavior,” along with “severe depression,” during which episodes he became “irrational and unreachable.” He “lashed out verbally and physically at his staff, friends, and family,” and he “entered a devastating cycle of depression and alcohol abuse.”
The lawsuit further claims that he became “a compulsive, manic gambler,” which led to “gambling binges” resulting in the loss of “significant amounts of money.”
While the timeline of the various manifestations of alleged brain damage isn’t clear, the fact that Seau began to show symptoms as early as the mid-1990s gives rise to an obvious question: Why did he keep playing football?
Moreover, the long list of symptoms highlights one of the biggest challenges Seau’s lawyers will face. Arguably, the NFL was fully aware of the risks of concussions in October 2009, once the NFL acknowledged the problem to Congress and began to make significant changes in the management of players who have suffered brain injuries. If, at that point, Seau was exhibiting symptoms (and based on the lawsuit he clearly was), the two-year clock began to tick. And, as the NFL surely will argue, it expired more than six months before his death.
“We were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate, suffered from CTE,” Seau’s family said in a statement. “While Junior always expected to have aches and pains from his playing days, none of us ever fathomed that he would suffer a debilitating brain disease that would cause him to leave us too soon.”
This suggests that the Seau lawsuit will hinge on the argument that the window for filing suit didn’t open until Seau was diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, after his death. While a court may agree, there’s a good chance that the case will be dismissed fairly quickly, under the argument that Seau was having cognitive problems years in advance, and that his deadline for filing a lawsuit expired before he died.