Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is sudden damage to the brain caused by an outside physical force. It causes impaired cognitive and/or physical functioning, and can manifest through many different medical conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 5.3 million people in the United States suffering from TBI. Many of those people have chosen to seek damages through the legal system and the following are some notable recent cases.
National Football League
In June 2012, the lawsuits of 2,138 former players were consolidated into one master complaint against the NFL, alleging that the league was well aware of the potential for serious head trauma but took no measures to prevent it. According to the suit, adequate safety guidelines were not created and implemented, thus causing a great deal of harm to thousands of players. The helmet-making company Riddell, Inc. was also named in the lawsuit because the players allege that the company knowingly manufactured helmets that were dangerous and unsafe. Many of the players involved in this suit are now suffering from conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Some players have even committed suicide. The players want to hold the league financially responsible for the care associated with treating these conditions.
This case is significant for many reasons, starting with the sheer number of players involved in the lawsuit. The suit, and the attention it has garnered, will have a lasting effect on how professional football is played in the future. The NFL has already begun to implement more stringent safety guidelines, and even youth football leagues have responded by implementing stronger safety rules. Football is the most lucrative and the most popular sport in the United States and this amount of litigation is causing many to wonder if the NFL can remain viable.
Although Junior Seau was a well-known professional football player, his family did not join the thousands of former players who filed a lawsuit against the NFL. They instead chose to file a separate wrongful death lawsuit against the League. Seau committed suicide in May 2012, and it was revealed that he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). His family filed suit because they believe this condition was caused by the constant blows to the head Seau endured as a player. Like the master complaint, they are alleging that the NFL was aware of the potential danger but did not take adequate safety precautions. The suit accuses the NFL of glorifying and encouraging brutal hits without regard for player wellbeing.
This suit is significant because of Seau’s popularity and longevity in the league. Also, because he just retired in 2009, it highlights how rapidly brain injuries can have a major effect on a person’s life.
Virginia Slip-and-Fall Case
Although the lawsuits involving the NFL have caused brain injuries to be widely associated with sports, there have been recent lawsuits involving other manners of injury. In Virginia, a woman was recently awarded $12.2 million after she experienced post-concussion symptoms caused by a slip and fall at a local gas station. Symptoms included difficulty concentrating and seizures. She slipped in a small puddle caused by a leaking awning and the court ruled that the business was aware that the area where she fell was dangerous. The amount awarded to the plaintiff in this case is believed to be the largest award for slip-and-fall injuries in the history of Virginia.
These lawsuits are just a small representation of the thousands of brain injury cases that have gone through the court system. They may not reverse the damage caused by the injuries, but perhaps they will provide acknowledgement of negligence and a symbol of closure for the victims and their families.
Isaac Ginsburg writes on legal subjects; his primary areas of concern are Spinal Injury, Criminal Defense, Intellectual Property, Constitutional Law and others.