A handful of former professional football players and their spouses have filed a federal lawsuit against the National Football League, alleging the NFL for years concealed information that would have proven a connection between the game and head and other injuries suffered by the athletes.
The lawsuit, which seeks class action status, was filed Aug. 17 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Philadelphia attorney Larry Coben of the firm Anapol Schwartz Weiss Cohan Feldman & Smalley, P.C.
The complaint alleges that for 35 years, up to and including this year’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association, the league has “continuously and vehemently denied that it knew, should have known or believed that there is any relationship between NFL players suffering concussions while playing, the NFL policies regarding tackling methodology or the NFL policies about return to play and long-term problems such as headaches, dizziness, dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease that many retired players have experienced.
“Those denials have been stated in NFL publications, NFL sponsored so-called medical studies, testimony of NFL representatives before Congress and in the media in response to other reports suggesting a causal connection.”
The lawsuit claims that as far back as the early 1970s, the NFL started becoming aware of the relationship between concussions and the sport of football. It was also around this time that new helmet standards came into play.
Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the lawsuit states, NFL players were being “coached, trained and motivated to use all portions of their helmets to block, tackle, butt, spear, ram and/or injure opposing players by hitting with their helmeted heads.”
“These techniques were condoned by the NFL and/or not significantly condemned by the NFL, despite the defendant’s awareness that this practice was causing an increased risk in concussions among players,” the lawsuit states.
And while a rule was eventually passed that discouraged such practices, it was rarely enforced, the lawsuit maintains, since the NFL was more interested in keeping fans entertained.
The lawsuit claims that since the 1970s, the NFL has known that players suffering from repeated concussions were more likely to develop post-traumatic brain injuries, yet the league officially continues to deny any connection or correlation between players who have had concussions and long-term chronic brain injuries or illnesses.
The NFL even went as far as to dispute the findings of a study it commissioned itself that showed former professional football players were being diagnosed with dementia or other memory-related diseases at a rate significantly higher than that of the general population, the suit states.
“The defendant’s … disputed these findings and continued the mantra in the Press that there is no evidence connecting concussions, concussion like symptoms, NFL football and long-term brain illness or injury …,” the lawsuit claims.
The plaintiffs in the case are as follows: Charles Ray Easterling and his wife, Mary Ann Easterling, of Richmond, VA; Wayne Radloff and his wife, Garland Radloff, of Hilton Head Island, SC; James McMahon of Scottsdale, AZ; Gerald Feehery of Media, Pa.; Joseph E. Thomas and his wife, Nicole Thomas, of Seattle, WA; Michael Thomas Furrey of Huntingdon, WV; and Steve Kiner and his wife, Carol Kiner, of Atlanta, Georgia.
The plaintiffs in the civil action seek certification of a nationwide class against the defendant for negligence and other wrongful conduct alleged in the complaint, which contains counts of concealment, civil conspiracy, negligence, medical monitoring, and other damages.
The action demands a trial by jury.
The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05209-AB.