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Wrongful Death Lawsuits Against NCAA

Friday, December 07, 2018By Richard Alexander

Professional football and hockey players are not the only athletes alleging that they were misled about the dangers of repetitive head trauma in their sports. Family members of former NCAA football players say that their loved ones also suffered head trauma, brain disease, and death as a result of head injuries and that the NCAA did not do enough to make players aware of the long-term consequences of concussions. Four families of deceased college football players have filed wrongful death lawsuits alleging that the player’s deaths were caused by concussions sustained while playing football in college.

One of the lawsuits was filed by the widow of Cullen Finnerty, a Grand Valley State University quarterback from 2003 to 2006. Mr. Finnerty was discovered dead in the woods at the age of 30. An autopsy revealed that he had taken painkillers and was likely suffering from anxiety and depression. He was also found to have the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which research has confirmed is caused by multiple traumas to the head. Further studies confirmed the diagnosis, but said it was unlikely that CTE was the sole cause of death.

According to the claim, Mr. Finnerty suffered multiple concussions or other impacts to the head during practices and games while playing for his college football team. The lawsuit contains a number of allegations including that the NCAA: (i) did not monitor head injuries during practices and games, (ii) did not make players aware of the dangers associated with head injuries, (iii) failed to institute sound protocols for resuming play after a concussion, and (iv) neglected to notify family members about injuries incurred during play.

This is not the first action against the NCAA related to player concussions. In June, the NCAA agreed to settle a claim for negligence and wrongful death brought by the widow of a Texas Longhorn football player. In that case, the widow claimed that the football organization was liable for the death of her husband nearly four decades after he played college football. The NCAA stated that its agreement to settle was in no way an admission of liability and intends to continue to defend similar claims from former players all over the United States.

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