Practice Areas

NFL Head Trauma Litigation

In 2012, the United States Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated more than 5,000 individual lawsuits by former NFL players alleging a wide variety of brain damage, including the signature disease of football and boxing, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“CTE”).  The players alleged that all of these diseases were caused by professional football.  The JPML assigned the cases to the Honorable Anita B. Brody in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Our partner Gene Locks was among those who requested that the JPML assign the cases to Judge Brody, in part, because so much of the litigation began in Philadelphia, and the Firm’s primary office in Philadelphia played a pivotal role in advancing the claims for a large numbers of players.  Judge Brody appointed both Gene Locks and partner David Langfitt to the Executive Committee of the Plaintiffs’ Steering group.

The Firm filed one of the first class action lawsuits in the country, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, seeking to compel the NFL to provide medical monitoring for repetitive concussion and cumulative head trauma for former players who are or could be in the future victims of the progressive and latent brain injury sustained in the NFL. The Locks Law Firm also filed separate individual lawsuits on behalf of former players seeking damages, treatment, and medical monitoring for the neurological injuries they sustained during their NFL careers.  Those damages include, among many other brain injuries, post-concussion syndrome, persistent and unmitigated headaches, memory loss, personality disorder, depression, dementia, CTE, death, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), which is also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease).  From the beginning, the Locks Law Firm has been committed to obtaining complete and valid treatment, medical monitoring and all appropriate damages for victims and their families.  The investigation into this problem has revealed that latent and progressive brain damage in former NFL players is pervasive and possibly epidemic.

In our view, and as set forth in the Master Complaint against the NFL, the NFL intentionally failed to address this problem for decades, not just recently.  It turned a blind eye to a problem it knew about and the neurological community knew about for generations.  When pressed to do something about it in 1994, when one or more prominent players were forced into retirement by concussion injuries, the League dismissed the issue as not real and generated solely by the media.  The League diminished its importance and then engaged an unqualified rheumatologist employed by the New York Jets to lead purported neurological studies of former players.  Those studies actively disputed the connection between latent brain disease and repetitive traumatic brain injury sustained by NFL players.  The authors of the NFL’s purported research personally attacked and sought to discredit those who disagreed with them.  At no time was this conduct in the best interests of the players or their short-term and long-term neurological health.  Rather than implement a system that put the players’ health first, the NFL obfuscated, minimized, and even falsified the risks of latent and progressive brain damage that flowed from playing professional football.

Sadly, this is an age-old method a wide variety of American industries have used to confuse, obfuscate, and delay.  Coal companies (black lung disease), Asbestos companies (mesothelioma and asbestosis), Big Tobacco (cancer and heart disease), and the big oil companies (global warming) have all spent tens of millions of dollars to manufacture doubt about the clear science underlying serious and life-threatening risks to ordinary people and the planet.  They have paid so-called experts millions to infect scientific literature with positions that are not defensible, and their sole motive is to prevent action on the subject risk and prevent people from learning the truth.  What drives them is obvious: to protect profits, avoid paying the health costs associated with their industry, and foist those costs on the public via taxpayer financed health care.  The NFL is no different.  It delayed action for decades on the serious issue of brain damage to players by ignoring it, claiming the science wasn’t clear, and demanding years of more studies before any preventative action should be taken.  The lawsuits seek to put a stop to the NFL’s misconduct and educate everyone who plays the game or who has a loved one who plays the game.

Brain injuries are among the most debilitating personal injuries any football player can sustain; their consequences are often progressive, permanent, and sometimes fatal.  They are the worst injuries a player can sustain short of paralysis.  They affect not only the injured person, but family members and close friends as well.  For decades, all credible scientific evidence led to the conclusion that individuals who suffer repeated and cumulative trauma to the head are at significant risk for latent and progressive brain damage.  All football players at all levels face this risk, perhaps children most of all, because football is a head injury delivery system.  Families should never accept the argument from football’s organizers and apologists that the science is not clear or that football can be made safer by disallowing certain kinds of hits.  Football is not a contact sport.  It is a collision sport in which progress gained or denied on the field is often measured in inches.  Collision with as much force as possible is the way coaches teach the game at every level.  They prize it, praise it, and promote players who do it well.  Why?  The coaches’ success and employment depend upon it.  It is at the very heart of the football industry.         

Instead of litigating the cases, the NFL decided to enter into a settlement agreement.  Judge Brody approved the agreement, which is currently on appeal by players who contest its fairness.  When the appellate court will decide the appeal is difficult to predict, but we hope it will be resolved as expeditiously as possible.  

The Locks Law Firm is internationally recognized for its representation of brain injured victims, as well as its representation of mass torts victims.  You may participate in the NFL lawsuit at no cost to you or your family.  If you believe you would benefit from retaining counsel, please contact us and speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

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