Judge Dismisses Former NHL Enforcer Michael Peluso’s Lawsuit
On August 24, 2018, Judge Susan Richard Nelson dismissed Mike Peluso’s lawsuit against the New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues, and the Chubb Group. As we have previously reported, Peluso, a former NFL player who played professionally for nine seasons, sued the Devils, Blues, and their insurance company, the Chubb Group, claiming that they intentionally hide the dangers he faced from continued head injuries. After his retirement in 1998, the long-term effects of his role as an enforcer and the resulting brain injuries formed the basis of his claims. His claims included battery, battery with aggravation of injury, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraudulent concealment, and civil conspiracy, among others.
Peluso argued that his claims fell outside of workers’ compensation and that his medical report showed that Devils and the Bleus knew of the risks of further head injuries, but kept putting him back on the ice. Peluso was known as an enforcer, notably playing left wing on the 1995 Stanley Cup winning New Jersey Devils’ “crash line.”
Most recently, Judge Nelson dismissed Peluso’s lawsuit for the lack of jurisdiction in Minnesota federal court. Regarding the Chubb Group, Peluso argued that the Chubb Group consented to jurisdiction in Minnesota by registering entities with the Minnesota Secretary of State, having contracts in Minnesota, and because the Chubb Group had two offices in Minnesota. However, Judge Nelson disagreed, believing that the Chubb Group’s conduct was not purposefully aimed at the state of Minnesota, thus the court lack jurisdiction.
Regarding the Devils and the Blues, Peluso argued that the court had jurisdiction because “they directed their fraudulent conduct ‘at Peluso in Minnesota.’” Specifically, the teams fraudulently induced Peluso to enter an employment contract to play professional hockey despite extreme risk to his health. Further, Peluso argued that sometimes his employment contract required him to participate in promotional activities, including some “directed at and within Minnesota.” Once again, Judge Nelson disagreed, she noted that nothing about the Devils and Blues employment relationships with Peluso “required meaningful contact with Minnesota or caused them to avail themselves of the benefits and protections of Minnesota’s laws.” It is also important to note that no professional hockey games were played in Minnesota during Peluso’s profession career. The Minnesota Wild, currently the state of Minnesota’s only professional hockey team, did not come into existence until 2000, two years after Peluso’s retirement.