NFL Painkiller Lawsuits
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The ability of the NFL to avoid liability for how current and former players were treated in regards to overuse of painkiller medications is rooted in its use of two “shields.” The first is a holding that its individual franchises, not the NFL itself, are responsible for any and all medical care that players receive. The second is that any indirect activity on the topic of player welfare is governed by the league’s collective bargaining agreement and therefore any player grievances should be handled within the parameters laid out by that document and that players forfeited their ability to use the courts in that manner when they agreed to the terms of the CBA.
That’s exactly the points the NFL makes in its response to Richard Dent’s third amended complaint against the league.
Judge Willliam Alsup has continually moved the goalposts in his decisions in both Dent v. NFL and Evans v. Arizona Cardinals, dismissing well-pled allegations when it suited his version of the facts, then treating those same allegations as fact later to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims when they adjusted to his moves.
Richard Dent is heading back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for the second time as he seeks to hold the NFL accountable for the NFL’s deceptive and illegal use of painkillers, that have left many players permanently disabled. His appellant brief is due on August 22. Why his very competent legal team hasn’t been able to convince Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California of the NFL’s masterminding and role in the painkiller abuse is puzzling, but a recently unsealed transcript hold some clues.
On April 19, Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California dismissed the only remaining cause of action against the NFL regarding its misuse of powerful painkilling drugs, ending litigation that spanned two-lawsuits over the course of five years.
Richard Dent’s lawsuit accusing the NFL of a callous return to play culture based on illicitly medicating players to hide their injuries and maximize profits is back in the District Court for the Northern District of California, and a colossal “chess match” is underway.
Everything about the dismissal of the Evans painkiller lawsuit raises questions. The only answer it provides is that this particular lawsuit has reached its end. Why that happened may never be satisfactorily answered but it’s time to take a look.
The short, non-published opinion issued on February 6 barely spanned six pages.
On December 19, the second of two appellate oral arguments regarding the NFL’s misuse of prescription drugs, concealment of the harms, and impact on the players who took the drugs at the urging of their teams, took place at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Hall of Famer Richard Dent is back in action! Twenty-one years after his retirement, the Super Bowl XX MVP is scoring points and hoping to make the biggest sack of his career in a revived class action lawsuit against the NFL.
A hearing is set for March 21, in which the NFL’s motion to dismiss the painkiller lawsuit filed by Hall of Famer, Richard Dent, will be argued before Judge William Alsup at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
In a long-awaited decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, on September 6, delivered an opinion keeping a potential class action lawsuit against the NFL filed by Hall of Famer Richard Dent alive for further arguments.
July 22, 2017
@SheillaDingus In granting motion for summary judgment in favor of NFL Clubs San Diego/LA Chargers, Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers, late Friday July 21, Judge Alsup has declared the only provisions available to players for recourse of injury are workers’ compensation and …
June 23, 2017
@SheillaDingus A lawsuit that began with numerous accusations against all 32 NFL Clubs by 14 former players was whittled down to what Judge Alsup deemed “sufficiently pled” allegations against 14 teams by 9 players last month, but in accordance with Alsup’s interpretation of …
SUPPLEMENTAL: In an article published on February 27, 2017 I broke down elements of an ongoing lawsuit between former NFL players and the 32 member clubs of the league. While the stories are different, there are commonalities to each. Every player was pressured to play through injuries facilitated by the use of prescription painkillers. The players charge the league and its teams of misrepresenting and concealing the dangers of the drugs that were administered to them. I included some sample player narratives in the main article but for the sake of brevity (or some semblance thereof) I edited out these compelling stories, but felt they needed to be shared. So here they are. And they are representative of thousands.
February 27, 2017 On February 22., a group of retired football players filed a 127-page second amended complaint against the 32 teams of the NFL, upping the allegations of painkiller abuse and seeking certification for class-action. Previously Judge Alsup of the Ninth Circuit Court, …
November 22, 2017 The NFL and its member clubs have been engaged in ongoing lawsuits seeking accountability for the damages to former players resulting from improper and illegal use of prescription painkillers to keep injured players on the field. Note: Since this article is primarily a …
On February 3, Judge William Alsup ruled on a Motion to Dismiss filed by the member clubs of the NFL, granting in part and denying in part, thus allowing a proposed class-action painkiller suit filed by retired NFL players to move forward. The lawsuit, one of two currently in the Ninth Circuit, claims that the NFL and its member clubs created a “return to play” culture that placed players at greater risk of permanent injury and potential organ damage by administering high dosages of pain medications over a prolonged period of time without issuing any warning of adverse effects.
My Trilogy on painkiller abuse in the NFL takes a deep dive into the problem it poses, some of the players it impacts, and the ensuing lawsuits. I’ve placed links to all three articles here as well as a few related pieces. I hope you’ll check it out.
Painkiller use is part of a largely unseen culture within professional sports in general, and the NFL in particular. While no one would question the need for painkillers in a sport as inherently physical as professional football, where to draw the line between legitimate pain management and painkillers as a tool for exploitation of athletes is much less clear.
As I described in Part I, a culture has developed within the league that prioritizes getting the best players on the field in order to win football games, giving fans the star players they want to see, and most importantly from a league perspective, to generate ever increasing revenue.
Going into the final stretch of the 2016-2017 season, the NFL has imposed 44 fines or suspensions on players for violations of the league’s substance abuse or performance enhancing substance policies. Much of the substance abuse discipline is related to players’ use of marijuana, some for medical purposes as in the case of Bills OT Seantrel Henderson, who was suspended for using physician prescribed cannabis for symptomatic treatment of Crohn’s Disease, a gastrointestinal disease so painful that it renders many of its sufferers unable to walk. Cannabis is one of the few, and also most effective ways of treating this presently incurable disease. Other players who may use marijuana for pain management related to playing injuries are also subject to suspensions, should they be caught – regardless of whether or not marijuana use is legal in the state where they live.
Numerous other players have faced fines and suspensions for ingesting performance enhancing drugs, several, allegedly by accident. Eagles RT Lane Johnson has filed a lawsuit against both the NFL and Players’ Association claiming in addition to a number of procedural violations that the Aegis app provided to players is not accurate and the union isn’t doing enough to protect players from accidental ingestion of banned substances.
The one class of drugs the NFL does not appear to have a problem with is painkillers – both of the opioid and NSAID variety – yet these are allegedly used outside the boundaries of medical guidelines constituting imposed substance abuse for the sole purpose of enhancing players’ ability to perform and remain in the game. If statements made by dozens of former players and a handful of active players are true – and I see little if any reason for doubt, – then the NFL is engaged in a dangerous hypocrisy regarding drug use.
Herein lies a sordid tale. It’s certainly no secret that the NFL is a highly guarded enterprise, only sparingly leaking the information they wish to make known. While a few high profile cases surface in the headlines, most litigation is seldom if ever reported. While making thousands of appearances in courtrooms annually, the NFL’s high-powered legal teams have been quite adept at keeping most of its dirty laundry in the hamper.
On Monday, a California judge ruled that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will be required to give deposition testimony under oath regarding his knowledge of how prescription pain killers are used in keeping injured players on the field.
In May of last year a suit was filed against the thirty-two member Clubs of the NFL…