How might the NFL respond to head injury lawsuits?

Football fans, as well as those who do not tune in for the Miami Dolphins games each week, are probably aware of the myriad of lawsuits that former players have filed against the National Football League and Riddell, the company that manufactures helmets used by NFL players. Currently, more than 3,400 individuals are plaintiffs in a total of 135 cases.

The cases are all revolve around concussions the players suffered while on NFL teams. Quite a few of them allege that the organization hid long-term effects of trauma sustained to the head from the players. Other claims assert that the helmets worn by the players did not provided protection adequate for their use.

Individuals familiar with the case believe that the NFL will present at least five arguments in its defense.

The first is that it was not aware the head injuries posed long-term dangers to players. In fact, it does what it can to keep the players as safe as possible.

Second, the league will likely claim that via collective bargaining agreements, the matter should be addressed utilizing the grievance process articulated in the agreement. If successful, this preemption would result in the issue being handled in arbitration.

Next, the league could assert that the players assumed the risk of injuries when they decided to play the game of football. If successful, this would ultimately make it so that the NFL was not negligent.

Another possible defense to the cases is that the players were contributorily or comparatively negligent for their injuries. The negligence on the part of the players took the form of behaviors such as failing to inform the team that they were injured or indicating they were okay to play even when they were not fully recovered.

The last potential defense offered is that the difficulties retired players are facing are due to many factors, not just head injuries sustained as a professional player. These factors could include injuries that were suffered before the players started playing professionally, financial issues and the abuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs.

Despite the many defenses the NFL could offer in response to the claims, as is the case in any personal injury lawsuit brought as a result of head injury, the plaintiffs in the case could succeed and obtain damages.

We will of course continue to provide updates on this matter as they become available.

Source: Sporting News, “SN concussion report: NFL could lose billions in player lawsuits,” Glenn M. Wong, Aug. 22, 2012

  • Brain injury cases are often complex. Our firm provides counsel in these types of matters. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Miami brain injuries page.