Boston University Calls NHL’s Subpoena Unjustified; Seeks Reimbursement of Legal Fees

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Boston University has filed a motion in Minnesota federal court asking the court to order the National Hockey League to reimburse the university for $119,704 in attorneys’ fees and costs. The NHL is currently embroiled in a proposed class action suit involving the claims of former players that the NHL failed to warn the players about the risks of head injuries and concussions. One of the potential groups of members includes players diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Boston University is not a party to the current suit. However, Boston University is one of a number of institutions that operates a CTE research center. Research involving CTE is performed on brains donated by individuals after they are deceased. The Boston University CTE Center has data relating to around four hundred individual brain donors. Of those, only six of the donated brains came from individuals that played in the NHL.

The NHL served a subpoena on the Boston University CTE Center requesting primary research data and documents from all four hundred individual brains at the center. The center refused to comply with the request citing the unreasonable scope of the NHL’s request. Instead, the center offered to give the NHL the research related to the six NHL players that the center had analyzed, subject to family consent. In response the NHL filed a motion to compel their original subpoena. Defending against this motion cost Boston University $119,704. Ultimately, the U.S. District Judge agreed with Boston University. The court ordered the CTE Center to produce the previously offered research related to the six NHL players.

Now, Boston University is seeking to recoup the $119,704 in legal fees required to defend against the NHL’s subpoena. The university’s motion states their basis for recovery, “The court’s decision makes clear that the NHL subpoena was not ‘substantially justified.’”



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