Boogaard Wrongful Death Suit Dismissed

On Monday, June 5, 2017, an Illinois federal judge dismissed the remainder of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of former National Hockey League player Derek Boogaard, who died of an alcohol and painkiller-induced overdose on May 13, 2011. A subsequent examination of Boogaard’s brain led to the determination that he was suffering from Stage II chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE., at the time of his death, which researchers attributed to “repeated blows to the head during his hockey career.” The lawsuit against the NHL alleged that the league knew or should have known that players with brain damage are more susceptible to drug addiction and that “enforcers” such as Boogaard had an increased risk of developing addictions to prescription pain medications.

The decision to toss the case was made largely on technical grounds. First, U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman denied removal to Minnesota state court because Boogaard’s parents failed to register themselves as trustees for their son’s estate, which is required for a wrongful death claim in Minnesota. Second, Judge Feinerman concluded that the Boogaards failed to prove the NHL was negligent by either promoting violence in te sport or hiding evidence concerning the long-term effects of hits to the head and concussions from its players. The NHL argued that they were under no duty to warn players of potential injuries stemming from multiples hits to the head, and the Boogaards’ failure to address this argument led to the dismissal of the case.

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