Nov. 25, 2001: Miami Dolphins' Oronde Gadsden, right, hauls in a pass under pressure from Buffalo Bills' Nate Clements during the second half of an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y. Gadsden is one of nearly two dozen former NFL players that are suing the league over severe and permanent brain damage they say is linked to concussions suffered on the job. (AP)
PHILADELPHIA – A third lawsuit has been filed in Philadelphia by retired NFL players over brain injuries allegedly caused by on-field concussions, a week before U.S. judges decide whether to consolidate similar cases filed around the country.
At least eight related lawsuits have been filed in New York, New Jersey, Georgia and Florida. The lawsuits claim the National Football League hid evidence linking concussions to permanent brain injuries and seek millions in compensation.
Two-time Super Bowl champion Jim McMahon and hundreds of other players have signed on. Many cite symptoms ranging from occasional memory loss to depression to degenerative brain disease, while others are asymptomatic but want to be monitored for brain-related health problems they fear they will develop.
"Rather than warn players that they risked permanent brain injury if they returned to play too soon after sustaining a concussion, the NFL actively deceived players, by misrepresenting to them that concussions did not present serious, life-altering risks," the suit filed Wednesday charges.
The plaintiffs — former Philadelphia Eagles Ron Solt, Joe Panos and Rich Miano, along with four other players and four spouses — alleges an NFL conspiracy to conceal information and seeks at least $75,000 per person.
A similar lawsuit filed earlier this month in Philadelphia seeks more than $5 million for more than 100 former players.
The NFL hopes to consolidate the various lawsuits being filed in Philadelphia, where the first complaint was filed last year. That suit has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody, who has experience handling multi-district litigation and whose potential role has been blessed in court papers by both the NFL and the Philadelphia-based lawyers who filed the first suit.
At the same time, the league is fighting to have that suit dismissed on grounds the claims are barred under the players' collective bargaining agreements.
They've also moved to block the other side from taking wide-ranging depositions, at least early on, as the players seek to gather enough evidence to keep the case from being thrown out.
"Plaintiffs may not seek extensive, merits-based discovery in order to salvage their insufficiently pleaded claims," the NFL wrote in a filing this month.
The players involved in that suit include former Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Brent Boyd, said by his lawyers to be the only living player diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The degenerative brain disease, known as CTE, has typically been found in autopsies of people who have had multiple head injuries, including more than a dozen former NHL and NFL players.
Boyd has started an organization called Dignity After Football to help retired players who are disabled or lack league pensions.