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Judge Denies Class Certification for Former Hockey Players in NHL Concussion Lawsuit

By: Allan M. Siegel

On Friday July 13, 2018, a Minnesota federal judge declined to certify a class of thousands of current and former hockey players who alleged the National Hockey League (NHL) failed to reveal what it knew about the life-altering harmful effects of head trauma in the sport. According to the judge’s ruling, the large variance in state medical monitoring laws would make it too difficult to address in one class.

As we discussed in a recent blog post, the NHL concussion lawsuit is similar in scope to those involving the NFL and other collegiate and professional sports organizations. In the suit, like others, former and current athletes claimed that the league failed to protect athletes against the long-term effects of brain injuries and repeated head trauma, and that the NHL concealed what it knew about those risks.

While our post focused on the story of two former NHL players who filed suit against the league, we also discussed the pending litigation in Minnesota District Court and the attempts of roughly 5,000 players to consolidate in a single class action. Those players also attempted to group claimants according to their states of residence and how those states handle medical monitoring relief, which is permitted by a number of states in cases involving exposure to risks and an increased likelihood of developing a future disease, including neurological conditions such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and others that can result from repeated head injuries.

However, those efforts were shot down last Friday by the federal judge who stated that a single class action would create considerable case management difficulties, especially in relation to state laws on medical monitoring. Due to these differences in state laws, the judge ruled that medical monitoring should be subject to state law and applied on a player-by-player basis depending on where they spent the majority of their career.

NHL Concussion Lawsuit Moving Forward

Although the recent ruling may not have been what players were looking to achieve, they still have the opportunity to make their voices heard and seek justice on the basis of their claims – which is that the NHL concealed information about the links between head injuries and long-term health consequences. Although litigation may take some time, the current and former players involved, as well as their families, will be looking to accomplish a few key objectives:

  • Discover what the NHL knew about the links between head injuries and health risks;
  • Ensure fair compensation for athletes suffering from neurological conditions and other health issues as a result of their careers;
  • Establish medical monitoring for current and former players;
  • Promote greater awareness, better safety policies, and possible rule changes that can protect current and future athletes in the professional ranks.

The fight for justice in cases as high profile and high stakes as the NHL concussion lawsuit can be a long and arduous process. However, as we have seen in cases like the recently finalized concussion settlement against the NFL, these lawsuits are critical to helping everyone understand the profound and life-altering risks athletes face as a result of playing sports, entertaining fans, and earning money for their teams. This understanding would not only help gain support for efforts that keep athletes safe and provide them with needed resources throughout and after their athletic careers, but also for prompting new rules and laws that protect people of all ages who enjoy sports at any level.

At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our legal team will continue to follow the pending NHL concussion lawsuit and other similar newsworthy cases involving brain injuries. We will also continue to fight for local victims and families across Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia as they look to protect their rights following preventable brain injuries. If you would like more information about brain injuries, personal injury lawsuits, and our extensive work in this field, please contact us for a free consultation.