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.