Test case on NFL liability for players’ dementia

by Walter Olson on April 7, 2010

In addition to the main questions of proof of causation, assumption of risk, and so on raised in yesterday’s NYT story, there is this window into a little-known but well-developed area of forum-shopping:

…California’s workers’ compensation system provides a unique, and relatively unknown, haven for retired professional athletes among the 50 states, allowing hundreds of long-retired veterans each year to file claims for injuries sustained decades before. Players need not have played for California teams or be residents of the state; they had to participate in just one game in the state to be eligible to receive lifetime medical care for their injuries from the teams and their insurance carriers.

About 700 former N.F.L. players are pursuing cases in California, according to state records, with most of them in line to receive routine lump-sum settlements of about $100,000 to $200,000. This virtual assembly line has until now focused on orthopedic injuries, with torn shoulders and ravaged knees obvious casualties of the players’ former workplace. …

Because of the legal environment, the relatively new Arena Football League has avoided locating any of its teams in California.

P.S. Related Times piece on two California lawyers who have brought in “awards that probably total more than $100 million” for players. “Many retired players consider Owens and Mix heroes among their own for essentially finding cash under a mattress; others see an assembly-line process in which players do not fully understand the implications of the settlements.” And some teams have attempted to remove the proceedings to states other than California.

{ 1 comment }

1 Robert 04.07.10 at 12:14 pm

Regardless of if CA workplace injury compensation law covers this or not, I think the NFL should, for good PR, cover basic medical expenses for former players.

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