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NFL Players Painkiller Misuse Class Action Lawsuit

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Court Green Signals NFL Players Painkiller Misuse Class Action Lawsuit

NFL Accused Of Painkiller Misuse – Class Lawsuit

The National Football League (NFL) was accused of getting team doctors to distribute pharmaceutical-grade painkillers to players and withhold information about its side effects from the players to them back in the game. 

Former Chicago Bear and NFL Hall of Famer Richard Dent leads the class action lawsuit against the NFL, which was filed in 2014.

According to Dent, when he retired, he had an enlarged heart, his foot had permanent nerve damage, and he was addicted to painkillers. 

The lawsuit accuses the NFL of painkiller misuse from 1969 to 2012. According to the complaint, this decades-long pattern caused a number of athletes to develop permanent health issues and injuries.

Around 500 former NFL players said that the athletes were pushed to take painkillers and other drugs to keep them productive on the field rather than letting them recuperate from their injuries.

NFL’s Push For Dismissal Rejected By Judge

U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who dismissed the lawsuit twice before, finally advanced the almost seven-year-old class action lawsuit. 

Alsup acknowledged the possibility that the labor contracts that the NFL attorneys keep citing could still affect the class action. 

However, he stressed that “rather than a third dismissal and overindulgence in the judicial notice, the Court believes the record for the court of appeals will be complete and true to history if we proceed to trial and/or summary judgment.”

The ruling was issued on February 19, 2021, and players are given a chance to proceed with their claims against the league. 

The NFL argued that the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) preempts the claims of the players that the league took up a voluntary duty of ensuring proper record-keeping, administration, and distribution of medications.

The ruling was on remand from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 

The Ninth Circuit ordered the lower court to determine whether the “voluntary undertaking” claims were preempted. 

Federal law largely preempts state law claims on the basis of rights created by collective bargaining agreements (CBA) and those that are substantially dependent on a CBA analysis. 

However, the proper administration and distribution of medications do not explicitly fall under the CBA, giving players a chance to prove their voluntary undertaking claim without citing the CBA.

There is a need then to compare against the CBAs every alleged voluntary undertaking and consider the extent to which it intertwines with the voluntary programs.

Previous Case Dismissals

In 2014, the case was first dismissed for the reason that the CBAs between the players’ labor unions and the teams preempted the LMRA.  

According to Alsup, the labor contracts between 32 individual NFL teams and the players necessitate the case to go into arbitration.

The players appealed, and the case was revived by the Ninth Circuit in 2018, arguing that the LMRA did not bar the claims of the players because CBAs did not cover that subject. 

The duty of the NFL to handle drugs with reasonable care falls under federal laws and not labor contracts.

Alsup tossed the case again a year later on the grounds that the NFL did not directly involve itself in the prescribing practices that it was accused of, enough to face liability.

The Ninth Circuit reinstated the case again, albeit partially, in August 2020 because “it was within the NFL’s control to promulgate rules or guidelines that could improve safety for players.” 

According to the Ninth Circuit, the NFL could be held liable under California law’s “voluntary undertaking theory of negligence.” 

The league was accused of not doing enough to protect its athletes. 

The Ninth Circuit alleged that the NFL “demonstrated its ability to create better policies” but “failed to enforce them.”

The cut-off for gathering evidence was set on August 20, 2021. 

The deadline to file summary judgment motions is on October 7, 2021. 

The tentative trial date is scheduled for April 4, 2022.

Learn more about the case here: Richard Dent et al. v. National Football League, Case No. 3:14-CV-02324-WHA, N.D. CA.

Editor’s Note on NFL Players Painkiller Misuse Class Action Lawsuit:

This piece is written about the recent controversial NFL Players Painkiller Misuse Class Lawsuit.

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