(New York Times) - The family of Junior Seau, a former star linebacker who shot and killed himself last year, sued the N.F.L., the helmet maker Riddell and others on Wednesday, accusing them of hiding information about the link between head hits and long-term cognitive issues.
The family said the league not only “propagated the false myth that collisions of all kinds, including brutal and ferocious collisions, many of which lead to short-term and long-term neurological damage to players, are an acceptable, desired and natural consequence of the game,” but also that “the N.F.L. failed to disseminate to then-current and former N.F.L. players health information it possessed” about the risks associated with brain trauma.
Seau’s family, which filed the case in state court in San Diego, is seeking an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.
Seau was 43 when he shot himself in the chest at his home in California in May. He played 20 seasons in the N.F.L. with the San Diego Chargers, the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. This month the National Institutes of Health said tissue samples from Seau’s brain showed that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head hits and brain trauma.
“We were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate, suffered from C.T.E.,” Seau’s family said in a statement after its complaint was filed. “We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a message that the N.F.L. needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations.”
Greg Aiello, a spokesman for the N.F.L., said the league’s lawyers would “respond to the claims appropriately through the court.”
The N.F.L. has often asked courts to move these cases to federal court in Philadelphia, where similar complaints have been consolidated. More than 4,000 retired N.F.L. players and their family members, including those of Ray Easterling and Dave Duerson, who also committed suicide, have similar cases pending there.
The N.F.L. has asked that the cases be dismissed, arguing that the league’s collective bargaining agreement with its players covers these issues.