NFL players' concussion litigation - new 'Big Tobacco' - moves forward in Philly

By Jon Campisi | Sep 20, 2012

With a deep pocket defendant and experienced plaintiff attorneys, a growing personal injury case docket at federal court in Philadelphia has the potential to rival "Big Tobacco" litigation of the 1990s.

Known as the National Football League Players' Concussion Injury Litigation, the fast-tracking multi-district litigation (MDL) is being overseen by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

What began in August 2011 with one lawsuit filed by seven former NFL players and their wives has grown to include 2,000 plaintiffs in nearly 150 individual suits.

The overarching claim is that the NFL concealed the long-term health risks associated with players' repeated concussions on the football field.

One of the first plaintiffs involved in the initial lawsuit, former Atlanta Falcons defensive back Ray Easterling, committed suicide this spring.

Easterling, 62, died April 19 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to media reports. He was found inside his Richmond, Va. home.

In an April 21 Fox Sports article, Easterling's wife, Mary Ann Easterling, was quoted as saying that her late husband had been diagnosed with dementia in March 2011, months before he filed his lawsuit against the NFL over allegations that the sports organization concealed the potential long-term health risks associated with concussions caused by sports play.

The widow told Fox Sports that prior to his death, Easterling had been feeling "more and more pain. He felt like his brain was falling off. He was losing control."

Mary Ann Easterling went on to say that it was sad to see a man who had memorized plays as a football player not being able to remember things from "five minutes ago."

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