By: Allan M. Siegel
On December 1, 2012, Kansas City Chiefs' linebacker Jovan Belcher, who was just 25, shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. His mother and daughter were in the next room and were left unharmed. Belcher then sped away to the team's practice facility where he shot himself in front of the Chiefs' General Manager and Coach. Jovan Belcher suffered multiple incidents of head trauma since he started with the Chiefs in 2010, and he suffered a major concussion just two weeks before his death.
Cheryl Belcher, Jovan Belcher's mother, decided to take on the NFL and filed suit in the Circuit Court of Kansas City. She argued that her son had suffered "repetitive head trauma," and that appropriate medical care was not provided by the NFL. One of the lawyers involved in the case, Ken McClain says that, "the Chiefs knew he and his significant other were having major domestic violence issues," and they also of course knew of the concussion he experienced two weeks prior. The league should have provided medical care that not only helped Belcher with any cognitive or motor deficits that he was experiencing, but that also helped the dangerous mood disorders that can accompany a traumatic brain injury.
Lawyers for the Belcher family requested an autopsy to look for signs of CTE in December of 2013. The findings showed that "the microscopic findings of neurofibrillary tangles in young person are fully consistent with the pathological presentation of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy as it is reported in the available medical literature." The family chose to release these findings last month in light of the recent domestic violence incidents involving NFL players like Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. CTE was also present in former NFL player Junior Seau and WWE performer Chris Benoit. Benoit also took the lives of loved ones before committing suicide. The NFL litigation has helped show the public that traumatic brain injuries can cause devastating long-term effects. The link between traumatic brain injuries and domestic violence and mood disorders needs the same spotlight. These players and their families deserve to receive medical care that appropriately addresses the full spectrum of damage cause by TBIs.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, & Siegel, our partners continually study the developments in the field of traumatic brain injury treatment and research, and we understand the complexities of traumatic brain injury litigation, including the NFL litigation. If you have a question about a TBI case or need legal advice, please call our firm for a free consultation.