Ex-Players Sue Kansas City Chiefs Over Concussions
The Kansas City Chiefs are the latest target of concussion litigation. On December 3, 2013, five former members of the NFL team sued for damages related to head injuries.
The case was filed in a Missouri state court on Tuesday by Alexander Cooper, Joseph Phillips, Kevin Porter, Leonard Griffin, and Christopher Martin. It is the first concussion lawsuit filed against an NFL team, rather than the league.
The players allege similar complaints to those in the suit settled earlier this year. They are suing on claims of negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and fraudulent concealment. They say the team ignored decades of research showing that concussions cause long-term brain damage. Rather than warning players of this, the team lied and said concussions were not serious, referring to them as “dings.” As a result, the players contend they suffer from post-concussion syndrome, latent brain disease, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a brain disease that only because diagnosed after death with an autopsy.
The five ex-Chiefs opted out of the $765 million settlement from earlier this year and will not receive any compensation under that deal. Their attorney said the settlement is insignificant and only provides compensation to severely injured players. “It’s really a very small amount of money if you do the math. It’s paid out over 20 years; it’s $765 million total. It’s a little under $20 million a year the teams are contributing to these very severely injured people. It’s not very much money.”
The players are not asserting that the Chiefs acted any different than other teams. Instead, they based their claims on two reasons: they weren’t covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and a Missouri workers’ compensation law.
Many commented that the CBA was a potential issue for players in the dispute against the NFL. Arbitration potentially could have been required because the CBA covered health and safety issues. These players, and all those that played between 1987 and 1993, were not covered by a CBA.
Additionally, Missouri’s workers’ compensation law allows an employee to sue its employer if the employee is declined workers’ compensation. This law is unique to Missouri and is set to expire at the end of this year.
Some speculate this could open a new wave of concussion litigation in the NFL. The plaintiffs’ attorney said he “would expect others in the same situation to step forward because they are not going to get anything from the NFL settlement.”