Judge Stays Aaron Hernandez’s Consortium Suit

On January 23, 2018, U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. decided to stay a suit brought by Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, the fiancée of the late New England Patriots tight end Arron Hernandez. Mr. Hernandez committed suicide in prison while awaiting the appeal of his murder conviction. A court can stop, or “stay,” a proceeding or trial temporarily or indefinitely. Judge O’Toole ordered a stay on Ms. Jenkins-Hernandez’s suit in order to await a ruling by a Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The panel is deciding whether to combine Ms. Jenkins-Hernandez’s suit with other ongoing concussion litigation.

The suit originally began in September 2017, when Ms. Jenkins-Hernandez, filed a lawsuit, on behalf four-year-old Avielle Hernandez, against the National Football League and the New England Patriots. Avielle Hernandez is the daughter of Mr. Hernandez and Ms. Jenkins-Hernandez. The suit alleged that the NFL’s and New England Patriots’ negligence caused Mr. Hernandez to develop a severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The suit blames Mr. Hernandez’s violent behavior and suicide on his severe CTE. Later, the helmet manufacturer Riddell added to the suit and the New England Patriots were removed.

As we have previously covered, Ms. Jenkins-Hernandez moved to remand the case from Massachusetts federal court to state court. Ms. Jenkins-Hernandez originally filed in Massachusetts state court, but the NFL removed the case to federal court. In December 2017, Ms. Jenkins-Hernandez argued that the case should be remanded because Mr. Hernandez’s time in the NFL was incidental to her claim and Avielle’s loss of parental consortium is not preempted due to a lack of relationship between Avielle and the NFL. The NFL argued that the core of the suit rests on the NFL’s alleged duties to Mr. Hernandez. Further, the NFL asserted that the case could not be remanded because Mr. Hernandez had a relationship with the NFL that was governed by two collective bargaining agreements, which still have to be analyzed.

Judge O’Toole decided to stay the current proceedings until the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decides whether to combine Ms. Jenkins-Hernandez’s suit with an ongoing class action suit. Judge O’Toole did not rule on the remand motion, but the motion will be decided by either his court or a court that Ms. Jenkins-Hernandez is transferred to.

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