Derek Boogaard’s wrongful death lawsuit may open a big can of litigational worms

More than 4,500 sports figures suffering from traumatic brain injuries each get a small portion of the $756 million paid out by the National Football League (NFL). The settlement keeps relevant documentation out of court.

The NFL was mostly known for the caliber of its players. Now, it is known for hiding the risks of athletes sustaining multiple head injuries while scrimmaging on the field, head injuries that resulted in traumatic brain injury (TBI), also referred to as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

It was a large settlement, and one that was hailed as progress for those who sued the NFL for negligently withholding information about the risks of multiple head traumas. However, this is not the end of the issue. While the out-of-court settlement did pay out a large sum, it also managed to keep exculpatory documentation out of court. It also meant no one heard what witnesses had to say.

Down the line, every sport that involves full-body contact of some kind, will, without a doubt, face the same or similar concussion litigation. It is not beyond reason to anticipate that the NHL, NBA, MLB, and the NCAA may face such lawsuits. In fact, the NCAA is already facing down a massive TBI lawsuit.

TBI litigation began with the NFL. It is now making its presence felt with lawsuits filed by survivors of hockey players who took their own lives as a result of CTE. A case in point is that of 28-year-old Derek Boogaard’s family launching a wrongful death lawsuit alleging the NHL is responsible for his brain trauma and addiction to pain drugs. The defendants in that suit are the NHL, its Board of Governors and well-known league commissioner, Gary Bettman.
If the attorney handling that case is able to prove that the NHL was negligent in the way they treated Boogaard in relation to handing out painkillers and encouraging him to fight, sustaining multiple head injuries, the case stands a chance of opening the floodgates of litigation for other similar lawsuits. There is also the possibility of an extremely large award for damages.

What may tell the tale of success is the evidence in the complaint that includes, but is not limited to, the fact that NHL staff and doctors allegedly wrote him prescriptions for 432 pills of hydrocodone in one month, injected him 13 times with a pain masking drug, wrote him further prescriptions for 1,021 pain pills and encouraged him, in his role of enforcer, to instigate 66 fights over 277 games, sustaining multiple head injuries. His autopsy showed he had Stage II CTE.

The CTE revelation and Boogaard’s treatment are strikingly similar to how many of the NFL players were treated. Should Boogaard’s wrongful death lawsuit be successful, watch for more lawsuits of a similar nature filed against other leagues.

Posted on: November 27, 2013 | Tagged

Head Injuries and Concussions Can Be Dangerous If Athletes Play Too Soon After an Injury

Brain trauma is nothing to mess with, and players with a concussion must be sidelined until they recover.

Unfortunately, with the current attitude in many sports that playing through pain is a given, too many players are placed back into risky situations despite the presence of concussions and other brain injuries.

This is a problem that occurs in many sports. It could happen in soccer, football, polo, basketball and volleyball as well as cheerleading. Lately, consistent concussions over a period of time and the consequences for athletes have been making the news, and not in a good way. National Hockey League enforcers Wade Belak, Rick Rypien, and Derek Boogaard died as a result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE causes depression and all three enforcers, not to mention other notable players, have suffered the detrimental effects of CTE. Some are still alive to discuss how they cope with the mental and emotional issues they have. Others, like Belak, Rypien, Boogaard are dead. Their brains were examined for the presence of excess tau protein, a telltale sign of CTE.

Concussions happen all the time when kids and older adults are playing contact sports. It’s the manly thing to do, and they accept that they will get hit hard every now and then, including their head. But this is far more serious than the nonchalant reference to concussions being disorienting. It can kill, and the latest research points out that it may not even take a concussion to trigger a CTE.

It was once thought that continuing to play after sustaining a concussion was the major cause of CTE and other dementias. Now, the latest information from a Purdue University study in the Journal of Neurotrauma is that if a player sustains multiple blows to the head, every game played even without concussion symptoms, can still cause a CTE and long-term brain problems, including progressive dementia.

The word is getting out about this and you can see that in the latest court cases. For example, in July 2010, 75 former NFL players sued the league, suggesting they knew about the long-term effects of many blows to the head for at least 90 years, and it did not warn them or adequately protect them. Furthermore, the suit also suggested that it was not until 2010 that the league indicated that concussions can lead to CTE, memory loss and dementia.

You can expect to see an increase in lawsuits in this area of the law as more information becomes available on the causes and effects of CTE. If you have sustained a head injury or concussion, nothing was done about it, and you were put back into the game, talk to an Austin personal injury lawyer about your options, particularly if you are having cognitive difficulties. It is too important not to take action and find out about your legal rights.

Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at or (512) 476-4944.

Schuelke Law maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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