NFL Requests Hernandez Suit to be Paused
On November 15, 2017, the NFL moved a Massachusetts federal court to stay the proceedings of the lawsuit filed by Aaron Hernandez’s daughter for his late-stage chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) until a decision is made about transferring the case to multidistrict litigation. After Hernandez committed suicide in prison, it was found that he had stage three CTE at the age of 27, which is most commonly seen in men in their 60s. Hernandez’s daughter claimed the NFL knew about CTE since the 1960s but did not sufficiently inform the public of the relationship between head impacts and brain injury.
The Pennsylvania Multidistrict Litigation previously had a bulk of retired players with brain injuries, but they reached a settlement in 2015. The current Multidistrict Litigation involves 34 complaints by players who opted out of the 2015 settlement agreement. The NFL argued the Hernandez case should wait for the Multidistrict Litigation decision because Hernandez’s suit is a “tagalong” action that also involves brain injuries sustained during players’ NFL careers and the NFL’s role in the players’ development of degenerative brain disease. Specifically, the NFL claimed, “the underlying allegations of negligence and concealment contained in plaintiff’s complaint are nearly identical to allegations brought against the NFL Defendants in MDL 2323.” The NFL requested a stay of proceedings to avoid unnecessary additional effort and possibly conflicting rulings.
The NFL further argued that the court could waste resources on a case that it ultimately loses jurisdiction over if the stay is not granted. In addition, the NFL could also undertake unnecessary efforts. The NFL claimed the plaintiff will not be prejudiced by staying the action for a short time, but the NFL will be significantly burdened by having to duplicate its efforts in the Massachusetts federal court for Hernandez’s case as well as in the Multidistrict Litigation. Hernandez’s counsel stated they plan to file an opposition to the stay.