A personal injury complaint filed in a Massachusetts state court in late March against the
NFL by former player Robert “Bobby” Watkins, Jr., and his wife, Rillis M. Watkins, which was subsequently removed to the federal court in that state, has been transferred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where an MDL is pending against the league by thousands of former players alleging widespread fraud and negligence.
The Watkins complaint, filed on March 19 in a Massachusetts trial court by Boston attorneys Garrett J. Bradley and Andrea Marino Landry, as well as Philadelphia lawyer Michael B. Leh, of the Locks Law Firm, had been removed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on April 26 by defense attorneys Timothy C. Blank and Elizabeth L. Castagna, of the Boston office of Dechert LLP, and pro hac vice counsel from the New York firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
On May 16, the case was transferred by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to the federal court in Philadelphia, where U.S. District Judge Anita Brody is overseeing a nationwide multi-district litigation initiated by a massive number of former athletes who contend the National Football League didn’t adequately warn players of the long-term health risks related to on-the-field concussions and other head trauma.
Brody is currently weighing whether or not to grant the NFL’s motion to dismiss the case, or allow the litigation to proceed to discovery.
The jurist heard the first set of oral arguments in the case at the federal courthouse in downtown Philadelphia in April.
As for Watkins, the plaintiff, who played in the NFL from 1955 to 1958, he claims he sustained “multiple repetitive traumatic head impacts and concussions” during the course of his career that has led to present-day neuro-cognitive injuries.
Like the other suits in the multi-district litigation, the Watkins complaint accuses the league of “failing to disclose the true risks of repetitive sub-concussive and concussive impacts to NFL players.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the defendant was aware of how to protect the players from dangerous on-the-field circumstances, but that it failed to provide Watkins and others with “necessary, adequate, and truthful information about the heightened risks of latent neurological damage that arise from repetitive head impacts during NFL games and practices.”
The complaint also claims that the league intentionally misrepresented the facts linking concussive injuries sustained during professional play and long-term brain trauma such as CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease sometimes found in former professional athletes.