Former All-Star forward Gary Leeman leads a group of 10 former National Hockey League players who claim in a class-action lawsuit that the league has not done enough to protect players from concussions.
The lawsuit seeks damages and for courts to approve NHL-sponsored medical monitoring for brain trauma and/or injuries for the players involved in the suit. The former players blame their health issues on their NHL careers. The suit was filed in federal court on Monday in Washington on behalf of players who retired before February 14 of this year and have suffered from such injuries.
This suit comes on the heels of the NFL settling its lawsuit with thousands of former players for $765 million. The NFL suit was filed by players who suffered from dementia or other concussion-related health problems.
The NHL suit claims the following:
-The NHL knew or should have known about scientific evidence that players who sustain repeated head injuries are at greater risk for illnesses and disabilities both during their hockey careers and later in life.
-Even after the NHL created a concussion program to study brain injuries affecting NHL players in 1997, the league took no action to reduce the number and severity of concussions during a study period from 1997 to 2004. The suit claims the “Plaintiffs relied on the NHL’s silence to their detriment.”
-The league didn’t do anything to protect players from unnecessary harm until 2010, when it made it a penalty to target a player’s head.
The lawsuit also states the following:
The NHL’s active and purposeful concealment of the severe risks of brain injuries exposed players to unnecessary dangers they could have avoided had the NHL provided them with truthful and accurate information and taken appropriate action to prevent needless harm.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly issued the following statement on Monday in response to the suit:
We are aware of the class-action lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of a group of former NHL players. While the subject matter is very serious, we are completely satisfied with the responsible manner in which the league and the players’ association have managed player safety over time, including with respect to head injuries and concussions. We intend to defend the case vigorously and have no further comment at this time.
Much like the NFL case, expect this to be a long, ugly battle that ultimately ends in some kind of settlement.