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Junior Seau’s Family Sues NFL Over Head Inuries

The family of former NFL star Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year, is suing the NFL:

The family of Junior Seau has filed a lawsuit against the NFL, alleging that he committed suicide because of brain disease caused by repeated violent hits over the course of his football career.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed Wednesday in California Superior Court in San Diego, where Seau committed suicide last May by shooting himself in the chest. It alleges, according to the Associated Press, that the NFL, though “acts or omissions,” hid the dangers of repetitive blows to the head. Seau’s family recently revealed that an examination of his brain showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia, memory loss, behavioral changes and depression.

The Seau family’s lawsuit alleges that the NFL of ignored and concealed evidence of the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries. Seau’s family is just the latest to sue the NFL; nearly 4,000 former players have sued as the dangers of concussions have become apparent.

The Seau family also is suing Riddell, Inc., the helmet manufacturer they say “negligent in their design, testing, assembly, manufacture, marketing, and engineering of the helmets.” used by NFL players.

“We were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate, suffered from CTE,” the family said in a statement released to the Associated Press. “While Junior always expected to have aches and pains from his playing days, none of us ever fathomed that he would suffer a debilitating brain disease that would cause him to leave us too soon.

“We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations.”

Junior Seau’s ex-wife Gina and children Tyler, Sydney, Jake and Hunter are the plaintiffs, along with Bette Hoffman, trustee of Seau’s estate.

The lawsuit accuses the NFL, and NFL Films, of creating the myth that jarring hits are “a badge of courage which does not seriously threaten one’s health.”

This isn’t the first lawsuit the NFL has faced over this issue, and it’s unlikely to be the last.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The lawsuit accuses the NFL, and NFL Films, of creating the myth that jarring hits are “a badge of courage which does not seriously threaten one’s health.”

    Huh? Only a lawyer could write that with a straight face.

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  2. Franklin says:

    “We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations.”

    This is also lawyer-speak. We’re not in it for the money, we’re doing it for the greater good, basically.

    Do any non-lawyers out there think that the only way to get things done is to sue? I’m just curious for an opinion. Maybe it is.

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  3. john personna says:

    The libertarians certainly think it’s the only way to get things done.

    The alternative is for the “mommy state” to say no more head injuring pastimes. Though, it is particularly perverse when the mommy state is running public schools with football programs.

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  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Even if the NFL can stand this sort of suit I can’t help but wonder if school districts can as well. I also wonder if the rules changes that will be put into effect in an effort at avoiding regulation will change the game to the point where it’s unrecognizeable. It’s certainly different now from when I was in high school or college and it was different then from, say, the 1920s.

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  5. Rob in CT says:

    @john personna:

    Actually, I think Ta-Nehisi Coates nail this one: once parents decide that little Johnny is at real risk of serious, permanent injury from playing Pop Warner football, doesn’t the whole thing start to unravel?

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  6. Franklin says:

    @Rob in CT: While the parents may think that, I’d question whether 50-lb kids with oversized helmets and running at 5mph because of all the heavy gear are doing much damage.

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  7. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Franklin: Alas, your observation highlights why the problem goes ignored until Junior Seau goes home one night a puts a bullet in his head.

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  8. matt bernius says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Even if the NFL can stand this sort of suit I can’t help but wonder if school districts can as well.

    *This* and @Rob in CT‘s comment. Once law suits start trickling back into the schools and youth leagues, I’ll expect (at a minimum) rule changes.

    The thing that will hold all of it back is the fact that the realization of the damage happens relatively late in life. Lawyers/Medical Folks may have a really tough time proving that injuries sustained in one’s teens are manifesting in mid life.

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  9. Downpuppy says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Bullet in his chest, not head. Duerson, Seau, et al have been careful to leave their brains intact for testing.

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  10. grumpy realist says:

    I don’t see that much chance for this lawsuit. The link between the final damage (the suicide) and the supposed breach of duty (the football playing) can be argued to be too far a bridge to cross. They’re basically trying to argue a “had it not been for X, then Y would have never happened” and I don’t see how they’re going to prove it.

    (There’s also the assumption of risk argument, but let’s not even start going there.)

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