NFL Removes Hernandez Suit to Federal Court

On November 14, 2017, the NFL removed Aaron Hernandez’s daughter’s lawsuit to Massachusetts federal court. The lawsuit seeks to hold the NFL, as well as helmet maker Riddell, Inc. accountable for Hernandez’s development of severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The NFL moved the case to federal court based on their assertion that the claim arises under federal law.

Hernandez’s daughter, Avielle, filed the suit initially in Norfolk County Superior Court in Dedham, Massachusetts. She claimed the NFL and Riddell hid and downplayed the risks of playing football in Riddell helmets for years. This suit was a refiling after a withdrawal of the previously filed suit against the NFL and the New England Patriots in federal court alleging nearly the same claim. After Hernandez committed suicide in prison earlier this year, an examination was done on his brain by Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center. The Center found Hernandez was at stage three out of four of CTE, which is usually seen in players around the age of 67 at death, not 27.

In the NFL’s removal to federal court, they stated Avielle Hernandez’s claims are preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. The act states that federal courts have jurisdiction over all lawsuits that claim contract violations between a labor organization and an employer. Additionally, the NFL cited to the U.S. Supreme Court that held questions about what the parties to a labor agreement actually agreed upon as well as the legal consequences of a breach of a labor agreement must be resolved under federal law. The NFL further claimed that Avielle Hernandez’s claims are preempted because resolution of her claims is “inextricably intertwined” with the NFL players’ collective bargaining agreements terms. Specifically, the collective bargaining agreements would have to be interpreted related to player medical care, rule making, and protective equipment safety. There has been no response to the removal yet, and no further actions on Avielle Hernandez’s lawyers’ previous statement that a separate suit against the Patriots would be filed at a later time.

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