Lawyers representing more than 2,000 former NFL players will file a master complaint in federal court Thursday morning, consolidating the 85 concussion-related lawsuits filed against the NFL and therefore streamlining the case.
The complaint, which will be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania before Judge Anita Brody, alleges the NFL “deliberately and fraudulently concealed from its players the link between football-related head impacts and long-term neurological injuries.”
According to the 88-page complaint, a copy of which was obtained in advance by the Los Angeles Times, the NFL “was aware of the evidence and the risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries virtually at its inception, but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information from the Plaintiffs and all others who participated in organized football at all levels.”
Plaintiff lawyers say scientific evidence dating to the 1920s has linked repetitive concussive and sub-concussive impacts to long-term neurological problems.
The NFL will argue this is not a matter to be decided in federal court but that there are mechanisms in the collective bargaining agreement for addressing such issues. The league plans to file a brief by August, moving to have the case dismissed on those grounds.
Further, the NFL will argue the science of head injuries and the long-term effects of concussions continue to evolve, and the league rejects the notion it had unique knowledge about head injuries it kept from doctors.
In a written NFL statement, the league said: “The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so. Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league’s actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”
According to an NFL spokesman, the league has distributed a total of more than $17 million to 200 former players and their spouses as part of several related benefit programs, among them the “88 Plan,” named for Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, who suffered from dementia in the years leading to his death in 2011.