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Lawsuit claims concussions drove ex-Charger Paul Oliver to suicide

Paul Oliver
Former San Diego Chargers cornerback Paul Oliver, shown in 2009, shot himself in the head in front of his family last September.
(Denis Poroy / Associated Press)

The family of a former San Diego Chargers player who committed suicide last year blames head injuries for the death in a new lawsuit against the NFL.

Filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of Paul Oliver’s wife, Chelsea, and their two sons, the lawsuit says the league misled players over the long-term consequences of concussions.

“[The] horrific and tragic death … was the direct result of the injuries, depression and emotional suffering caused by repetitive head trauma and concussion suffered as a result of playing football,” the complaint said.

The NFL didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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After playing 57 games as a defensive back for the Chargers between 2008 and 2011, the 29-year-old Oliver shot himself in the head in front of his family in Georgia last September.

At least nine active or retired NFL players, including Oliver, have killed themselves since 2010.

In April, the lawsuit said, Boston University Dr. Ann McKee diagnosed Oliver with the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

The 87-page lawsuit’s targets include the NFL’s involvement with youth football, describing the league as “football’s nerve center.”

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“The NFL has held itself out as the guardian and authority on the issue of player safety,” the complaint said. “It’s undertaking of this voluntary duty has been -- at minimum -- an unmitigated disaster, and at worst, outright conspiracy to fraudulently conceal.”

Actuarial data released earlier this month by the NFL and players suing the league over concussions project that 28% of the 19,000 living retired players will develop a serious cognitive issue. That estimate doesn’t include CTE cases.

A proposed settlement to that litigation, granted preliminary approval by a federal judge in July, applies to all former players or their estates who don’t opt out by Oct. 14.

The families of players diagnosed with CTE after death between 2006 and July of this year are eligible for payouts of up to $4 million. The average amount, however, is estimated to be $1.4 million when variables such as how many seasons a player spent in the NFL and their age at diagnosis are factored in.

The Oliver lawsuit, which also names the Chargers, New Orleans Saints and several helmet makers,  seeks damages for a variety of claims, including wrongful death, fraud and negligence.


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