Michael Peluso Sues New Jersey Devils

On January 3, 2019, former New Jersey Devils’ enforcer, Michael Peluso, sued the New Jersey Devils and various team officials, claiming that the team concealed his risk of long-term neurological problems. According to Peluso, the Devils hid the full extent of a head injury that he suffered, on December 18, 1993, in a fight with Tony Twist, a member of the Quebec Nordiques. During the fight, Peluso allegedly suffered a concussion. According to the complaint, the Devils “intentionally, deliberately, fraudulently, and with callous disregard … concealed … the true extent of [Peluso’s] brain injury from February 14, 1994, and continually thereafter.” In fact, Peluso alleged that the team continued to conceal the extent of the injuries beyond the end of his playing career, in 1998, until 2016.

According to the complaint, the team and its medical staff allowed Peluso to play hockey and fight, exposing him to further injury. Peluso claimed that the team knew about the extent of his injuries because of a 1994 report by Dr. Ruderman, the Devils’ contracted neurologist, which said that Peluso “should not sustain any further trauma to his head or he will suffer additional seizures and long-lasting brain damage.” However, the team continued to ignore the warnings even after Peluso had his first grand mal seizure, in 1994. According to Peluso, the team was “armed with [the] knowledge,” provided by Dr. Ruderman, but team doctor, Dr. Barry Fisher, did not inform Peluso about the extent of his injuries, did not take any measures to protect him, and allowed him to return to the ice.

In a 2015 interview with NJ.com, Peluso said, “[i]t’s how they threw me out onto the ice. I’d had a grand mal seizure and Dr. Fisher handled the situation and said I was good to go. I heard [trainer] Teddy Schuch say, “I don’t think he’s ready,” but Teddy was overruled by Dr. Fisher.” Since the December 1993 fight, Peluso claimed that he suffered “nine grand mal seizures, early onset dementia, total and permanent disability in the workplace, all signs of being afflicted with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), as well as other severe neurological and psychological impairment.” Peluso is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

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