NHL Wants to Keep Concussion Lawsuit in the Courtroom, Not in the Media

On Wednesday, October 21, 2015, the National Hockey League filed an official opposition in a Minnesota federal court against the release of what they believe to be privileged documents to the public. In its memorandum of law, the league argues against the “de-designation” of confidential documents sought after by the plaintiffs, who are made up of a class of former NHLers bringing suit to recover under a theory that they suffer, or are at risk of continued medical complications, due to sustained head trauma while playing hockey.

Following the commencement of the lawsuit in 2013, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ordered the NHL to turn over medical records of former players this summer, which was unsuccessfully blocked by the League.  Many of these documents are what the former players seek to be released unredacted into the public record.  It is in these records, amongst other things turned over by the NHL, that the plaintiffs believe holds the truth behind their theory that the league knew about the dangers of concussions and head trauma generally, yet chose to encourage players to come back early after injury and failed to provide continued care for players after their careers had ended.

In response, however, the NHL argues that it would be inappropriate for the court to change the confidentiality of such documents at this time, as the media would be able to use the records against the league in the court of public opinion.  Not only would this hurt the NHL’s image as a sports body competing against other professional leagues for popularity and, of course, raising revenue, but the NHL warns that even Judge Nelson herself has consistently told the plaintiffs to keep the media out of the suit.  Further, many of the documents sought after by the plaintiffs are, in the NHL’s opinion, “interesting but legally irrelevant,” which only further adduces the motivation of the former players as malicious and done solely for litigious advantage.

While the NHL admits that it is not requesting the documents stay sealed forever, right now it only wants the court to remain cautious in lifting their confidentiality unless absolutely necessary.

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