Judge May Revive Wrongful Death Suit Against NHL

 In December, an Illinois judge granted summary judgment dismissing the wrongful death claim Derek Boogaard’s parents brought against the NHL. After years of fighting for their son, the judge recently indicated that two counts of their amended complaint may be sufficient for the case to proceed.

Boogaard was an NHL enforcer for six years; he played for the Minnesota Wild and the New York Rangers. In 2011, Boogaard died of an overdose after years of fighting, sustaining various injuries, and becoming addicted to painkillers. After his death, it was discovered that he had CTE, a brain disease which may affect a person’s impulse control, judgment, and reasoning.

Boogaard’s parents brought suit against the NHL alleging that the League was negligent in caring for Boogaard after his painkiller addiction. Initially, the complaint was dismissed because it was based on the NHL’s duty to protect Boogaard, which the NHL argued was covered by the League’s collective bargaining agreement. The Illinois judge agreed with the NHL and held that disputes over the League’s duty were subject to arbitration under the collective bargaining agreement, and the timeframe for arbitration expired.

During Thursday’s hearing over whether Boogaard’s parents could file an amended complaint, the judge pointed out that two counts of the amended complaint allege that the NHL ignored the link between head injuries and brain disease and promoted on-ice violence. The judge stated that these amendments are not covered by the collective bargaining agreement and may allow to suit to move forward.

This is not the only circumstance in which the NHL’s encouragement of violence is being questioned. The NHL is also involved in a multidistrict litigation in which former players are alleging that the NHL breached its duty to protect players from brain injuries.

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