Parents of Late NHL Player Derek Boogaard Request Revival of Wrongful Death Suit
On Monday, September 25, 2017, the parents of the late NHL player Derek Boogaard appealed to the Seventh Circuit, asking the court to revive their wrongful death lawsuit against the NHL. On appeal, the Boogaards claim the district court incorrectly applied Minnesota state law to the case.
Derek Boogaard played in the NHL for six years and participated in 66 fights, with one of his final fights causing him a severe concussion. The Boogaards allege in their original suit that their son’s death stemmed from an addiction to, and overdose of, painkillers prescribed for multiple injuries that the NHL was ultimately responsible for.
The district court dismissed the Boogaard’s case in June 2017. The court held the suit fell under the jurisdiction of the state of Minnesota. As such, the Boogaard’s were not the correct party to sue on their son’s behalf. Minnesota law requires that for the Boogaards to sue on their son’s behalf, they must be appointed as trustees. Currently, they are only personal representatives and do not meet the law’s requirements.
The laws directing who can sue and in what capacity vary by jurisdiction. In their appellate brief, the Boogaard’s rely on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, 17(b)(3), to argue the capacity to sue is determined by state law in the state where the case is brought. Originally, the suit was filed by a trustee of Boogaard’s estate in Illinois State Court. The case was then removed to Federal Court where Boogaard’s parents stepped in for the trustee. The Illinois law requires only that the Boogaards be a personal representative of their son’s estate.
The Boogaard’s assert their case procedure complies with Illinois state law and Illinois law should control. The Boogaard’s also contest the district court’s finding that Minnesota was the most relevant venue for the suit. Boogaard played for the Minnesota Wild and his 2011 death occurred in Minnesota.
On appeal, they ask the court to remand their case to Illinois state court or to be allowed to amend their suit so that the original trustee brings the suit instead.