Another Sports Concussion Suit: NHL Enforcer Sues Various NHL Teams and Insurer

Mike Peluso, a former NHL enforcer, slapped the New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues, and an insurer with a lawsuit, is maintaining that a “newly discovered” medical report proves the teams were aware of the risks associated with head injuries, and nevertheless, continued to encourage him to play and fight.

According to Peluso, he has played in over 450 games as an enforcer — a position with the primary purpose of agitating opponents and getting into fights in order to shield the skilled players — and the various teams and insurer knew about the long-term risks that would arise if he suffered from a heady injury, but hid those risks from him. Essentially, his argument centered on the idea that the teams knew he was at a greater risk of long-term injury, but rather than prevent further injuries from occurring, continued to send him out onto the ice and encouraged him to fight, ultimately leaving him with permanent damage to the right side of his brain, dementia, and permanently disabled.

Peluso’s complaint alleged that “[t]his is not simply a case where defendants are alleged to know the link between head injuries and permanent brain damage.” His complaint maintained that “[t]his is a case where defendants knew the link between Mr. Peluso’s head injuries and permanent brain damage because they had their own Board Certified Team Neurologist tell them that Mr. Peluso would have brain damage if they allowed him to continue to receive head injuries.”

As support, Peluso referenced to a medical report written by Dr. Marvin Ruderman, a board-certified neurologist, after Peluso suffered a grand mal seizure. The report concluded that the seizure was directly connected with a fight in which Peluso was knocked to the ice in 1993, warning that if Peluso “were subjected to additional head injuries, he would have long–term brain damage.”

The complaint further alleged that “[d]espite widespread knowledge that head injuries are inherent in ice hockey – especially those who have Mr. Peluso’s job title of enforcer, the Devils sent Mr. Peluso back to work despite his documented increased vulnerability to additional head injuries and brain trauma.” Notably, Peluso claimed that neither the Devils nor Ruderman ever shared this report with him, even though it was later shared with the Blues when he was acquired by them.

During his nine years as an enforcer, he engaged in a total of 240 bare knuckle fist fights, which resulted in at least nine grand mal seizures. Allegedly, despite a workers’ compensation action requesting production of the test’s results, the defendants never produced the report, and it was not discovered until May, 2016.

The complaint maintained that “[t]he Devils intentionally misrepresented his condition and informed Peluso he was fit to return to play, pushed him to return to his duties, and instructed him to continue his role as the team’s enforcer.” Further, “[h]ad Peluso been made aware of the severe risk identified by Dr. Ruderman, he would not have continued his career as a professional hockey player. Unfortunately, no Defendant ever informed him that he was at excessive risk of further seizures or permanent brain damage if he were to sustain more head injuries.”

Subsequently, Peluso participated in over 100 more fights. His suit alleges claims for battery, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, fraud and fraudulent concealment, and spoliation of evidence.

Accordingly, Peluso’s complaint maintained that “[d]efendants, each of them, knowingly and fraudulently concealed material information regarding Peluso’s injuries as a professional hockey player as well as his heightened risk of neurological injuries throughout his career. . . Team defendants further knew and fraudulently concealed the likelihood of head trauma and long term injuries relating to professional hockey players from Peluso.” The complaint continued, “Chubb intentionally concealed the aforementioned information from Peluso throughout his career and during proceedings before the WCAB despite its obligation to provide such information through discovery.”

 

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