Ohio Takes a Closer Look at Accrual of Injury in Concussion Case

The long-lasting nature of a concussion injury may be a way around the statute of limitation problems for athletes bringing concussion suits. The Ohio Court of Appeals, which revived a former Notre Dame football player’s case against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), recently reasoned that there was nothing about the player’s condition prior to diagnosis (within the statute of limitations) that would have alerted him that his injury was the result of the NCAA alleged tortious conduct.

Steven Schmitz, who passed away due to his injuries in 2015, brought suit against the NCAA alleging brain injuries including severe memory loss, cognitive decline, early onset Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic encephalopathy and dementia. Schmitz alleged that his injuries were caused by the negligence of Notre Dame and the NCAA during the time that he played football for Notre Dame from 1974 to 1978.

At the trial court level, the defendants argued the statute started to run after Schmitz played his last game for Notre Dame in 1978. The court rejected this argument, reasoning there were no facts alleged which would allow the court could decide as a matter of law whether Schmitz could have discovered his legal injury that early. Rather, the Ohio Court of Appeals held that due to the nature of his injuries, there was not enough information in the record to determine whether the discovery rule was applicable or the plaintiff’s claims were time-barred.

This approach mirrors that taken in concussion cases in other professional sports, suggesting that the date of diagnosis would be a reasonable point to toll the statute of limitations claimed by Schmitz, if he could not have reasonable learned about his injuries before that time. The case it has been remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.

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