Former NFL Players Face Uphill Battle in Painkillers Appeal

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On December 19, 2018, a lawyer representing six former NFL players had difficulties persuading a panel of Ninth Circuit judges to revive a lawsuit claiming that the NFL illegally dispensed painkillers and pushed athletes to return to the field, ending their careers early.

The lead plaintiff, Etopia Evans, widow of the late Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens player Charles “Chuck” Evans, filed her federal class action lawsuit back in May 2015. Back in 2008, Chuck Evans died a jail cell, two days after being imprisoned for failing to pay child support. According to Etopia Evans, Chuck Evans was unable to pay child support because of his addiction to painkillers, which he became addicted to while playing in the NFL.

According to the lawyer representing the former players, Chuck Evans and the other players trusted their team, coaches, and medical staff; however, they had no idea that being shot up with drugs and sent back to the field would ultimately do them harm. They also had “no clue” that the teams were allegedly ordering doctors to illegally medicate players. According the players lawyer, “[t]he [former players] had no clue that any wrongful conduct was going on. They don’t have constructive notice of the harm … they thought it was just perfectly fine. They had no sense that they were being damaged by an illegal distribute of the drugs. They trusted their doctors. They trusted their coaches. They thought this was normal.”

However, the Ninth Circuit panel expressed doubts. U.S. Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan probed the lawyer about why the player only became aware of the teams wrongful actions in 2014. Judge N. Randy Smith also questioned whether the players actually knew what was happening to them at the time. Judge Smith said, “[f]rankly I don’t think you have a fraudulent concealment unless there are some allegations about the diligence in the attempt to uncover the scheme.”


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