NFL Tells Ninth Circuit to End Painkiller Class Action Lawsuit

The NFL argued to the Ninth Circuit that the lawsuit from former players should be dismissed, as it was individual teams, not the league, that supplied the players with amphetamines and painkillers.

In 2014, former Chicago Bears players Richard Dent and Jim McMahon sued the NFL, claiming that teams frequently use opioids, anesthetics, and anti-inflammatory drugs like Toradol. They alleged that such drug use often does not require prescriptions and that the teams do not take into account medical history or potentially fatal interactions with other medications.

The lawsuit was initially dismissed by a district court for being preempted by both the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the team owners and players. However, this decision was reversed by the Ninth Circuit in September 2018, which found that the players were contending that the NFL violated federal and state law, not the CBA.

The NFL now argues that the players are making inconsistent arguments. To argue that the lawsuit was not preempted under the LMRA, the players argued that the league itself administered drugs to players, not just that individual teams, and that the NFL failed to stop them. However, the NFL argued in their brief that the players are now back to square one, as they now allege that the NFL simply did not do enough to stop team doctors.

The players claim to have evidence showing that the NFL directly was involved with administering drugs. They point to Dr. Elliot Pellman, the NFL’s former medical advisor, who directly distributed drugs to players. They also emphasize how the NFL requires all players to sign a waiver for Toradol, a powerful pain reliever. Ultimately, the players argue that emphasizing direct administration misses the point, as the NFL acts as an outside force causing medications to reach players.

There was a secondary lawsuit filed by another group of NFL players who made similar claims. That lawsuit was dismissed in February, with the Ninth Circuit finding that their claims were time barred under the relevant statute of limitations.

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