NFL Painkiller Suit Denied

On Wednesday, December 17, Judge Alsup, for the US District court for the Northern District of California, dismissed a complaint brought by ten ex-NFL players back in May, that claimed the NFL was negligent in failing to oversee individual teams’ painkiller policies.

The class action lawsuit, led by former Chicago Bears’ defensive end Richard Dent, stems from team doctors and trainers liberally administering prescription painkillers, anti-inflammatories, opioids, and local anesthetics to keep players on the field during injuries.   The players brought the claim to hold the NFL responsible for failing to oversee and intervene on this mistreatment.

Judge Alsup dismissed the complaint based on the fact that no other court has found that a professional sports league has a duty to police its clubs’ health and safety procedures.  The judge also noted that the proper forum to settle this dispute would be through the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.  The court would need to interpret the provisions of the CBA to establish any duty the NFL has over players’ interests.

In dismissing the complaint, the judge did note that the NFL has been addressing the issue in a “serious way.”  The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency has initiated an investigation into the matter and performed spot checks of 5 NFL teams’ medical staffs when on the road in the past month.  The plaintiffs intend to either appeal or file an amended complaint, which is due by December 30.

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