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Junior Seau Family Sues the NFL for Wrongful Death Over Brain Injuries

League blamed for “acts or omissions” that hid the dangers of repetitive blows to the head.

Updated at 3:36 p.m. Jan 23, 2013

The family of Junior Seau has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the NFL in the wake of federal scientists finding a brain disease tied to his pro football career, according to The Associated Press and other media reports.

The suit was filed at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in downtown San Diego Superior Court, says court spokeswoman Karen Dalton, and would not be posted online until Thursday.

The suit faults the league for its “acts or omissions” that hid the dangers of repetitive blows to the head, the AP said.

Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the National Football League, told NFL.com: “Our attorneys will review (the lawsuit) and respond to the claims appropriately through the court.”

An examination of Oceanside resident’s brain by federal health officials determined that he suffered from a debilitating brain condition common to people who have suffered repetitive head injuries.

The examination by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found the football star suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE has been found previously in autopsies of people who have suffered repetitive head injuries, including athletes who played contact sports, people who suffered multiple concussions and military veterans exposed to blast injuries.

The suit contends that Seau took his own life because of brain injuries suffered over the course of his 20-year NFL career. The NFL hid the dangers of repetitive blows to the head and deliberately ignored and concealed evidence of the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries, the lawsuit alleges.

“For many decades, evidence has link repetitive mild traumatic brain injury to long-term neurological problems,” the complaint reads. “The NFL was aware of the evidence and risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries for many decades, but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information from the players, including the late Junior Seau.”

Because the league establishes rules regarding player safety, it “has unilaterally shouldered for itself a duty to provide players with rules and information that protect players as much as possible from short-term and long-term health risks,” the lawsuit alleges.

Players and their families looked to the league for guidance on safety issues, according to the complaint.

The listed plaintiffs are Gina Seau, Seau’s ex-wife; their children Tyler, Sydney, Jake and Hunter, and Bette Hoffman, trustee of his estate.

The family released a statement that said, “We were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate, suffered from CTE. While Junior always expected to have aches and pains from his playing days, none of us ever fathomed that he would suffer a debilitating brain disease that would cause him
to leave us too soon.

“We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations.”

The lawsuit also alleges that helmets manufactured by Riddell Inc. and its Van Nuys-based parent company, Easton-Bell Sports, had design defects and that the company failed to warn customers of the risk of injuries.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Seaus are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

“We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior,” the family said in a statement quoted by AP. “But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations.”

The AP says its review in November “found that more than 3,800 players have sued the NFL over head injuries in at least 175 cases as the concussion issue has gained attention in recent years. More than 100 of the concussion lawsuits have been brought together before U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia.”

—City News Service contributed to this report.

The Teller of Truth January 23, 2013 at 09:40 PM
I'm going to have to agree with that as well.
Surf Dad January 24, 2013 at 12:17 AM
Great post! But I'm going to sue you now for making my side hurt from laughing! It's only fair!
Desert Dweller January 24, 2013 at 12:27 AM
It's the American way! Sue, sue, and sue. Football is a collision sport, pros get paid insanely well to do this, it's an injury ripe sport. If you think there isn't or there shouldn't be any risk you are an idiot. However I'm sure this lawsuit will be won, America will prove it's ineptness (like we need anymore proof), and football will be drastically changed. Might as well go flag.
Jane Tanaka MD January 24, 2013 at 01:22 AM
Questions to the public: Does this awareness of severe sequelae ( cognitive, emotional, behavioral) of head injuries from sports such as football change your opinion about encouraging your children or grandchildren to participate in such sports? If your child was severely injured due in a sport that you permitted him to sign up for, would you hold the team/school/league responsible? Or do you think parents should hold the responsibility? Knowing that head injuries occur in football and soccer ( highest rate of head injuries in girls due to 70 mph velocity of ball when heading ), should parents think twice , given that brain injury during childhood ( and up to age 25) is more severe and long lasting to the young developing brain?
Tom Yarnall January 24, 2013 at 03:20 AM
The Seau's were scammed by a two bit lawyer looking for publicity and a big pay check. I wonder how much retainer they had to pay. The only place this can pass muster is the Ninth Circuit. Oh damn. O.J. and the baby killer got off, didn't they? Maybe they can get a Samoan jury.
Kathy January 24, 2013 at 05:08 AM
NFL Players get paid Millions of Dollars to get bumps on the head. Give me a break, it is a contact sport. I doubt seriously that Jr thought he could play football and never have contact or injury, obviously his family didn't think he was smart enough to figure that one out. This family that is pathetic, money hungry and sue happy idiots and will not receive a penny. If the courts judged in favor of them, then that would be the end of contact sports. Maybe Jr's family should of been more concerned about his mental status and realized that he might of been Bipolar or some other type of Mental Illness. If his family was so concerned about him, then they shouldn't of left him alone after he tried to drive off a cliff. Jr's Family should be ASHAMED of themselves, Jr was not this type of person, he was caring and very generous to charities and children.
Mark January 24, 2013 at 06:42 AM
Thanks-stop it LOL you're going to hurt me.
Mark January 24, 2013 at 06:52 AM
Set the money issue aside for a moment. Is there any reason why helmets and safety gear for football are not up to higher standards? Why not have a helmet that transfers the load from the head to the top of the shoulders? NASCAR has done something like this with the HANS device. It is not perfect however it's a improvement over what killed Dale Earnhardt Senior. I get bothered when I hear about the high school students who get injured or killed playing football. Then we have the college athletes who also get injured. But somehow injuries are acceptable when he comes to the NFL players? I would feel better if the NFL would have research done for this and develop better equipment. But I believe as long as they are making money and they have lots of people willing to risk the injuries, the NFL will not invest. As I stated earlier lets put the money discussion aside.
Libi Uremovic January 24, 2013 at 02:24 PM
i know a guy that's an ex pro hockey player from canada...he's 35 and knows he's got cte...he jokes about 'drooling in a cup' in another 10 years... he coaches kids' hockey and is pushing his son to be a pro hockey player... i had an uncle that played pro football, so we are a 'football family'...my sister always pushed her son to play....until she saw him the day after the games ... to see her own son barely able to walk ... it changed her outlook... ...but it didn't change her son's outlook on the sport ... nor his father's who also played college ball....they accept the physical damage as part of the game....
Libi Uremovic January 24, 2013 at 02:44 PM
the invention of helmets is sort of the basis of the problem... when my uncle played pro ball they didn't have much protective wear....my uncle's body was mangled, but his head was fine because those guys knew better than to bash their heads together.... ...and the players were also half the size ... we're seeing an explosion of cte in seau's generation because it's the steroid generation... the helmets cushion the blows....but cte is about rattling the brain... the protective ware creates false sense of security....but it's still massive amounts of power slamming into each other as hard as they can...
Libi Uremovic January 24, 2013 at 02:52 PM
i know that we all hate the 'suers'...but perhaps the family is doing it more for awareness than money.... people on the west coast are not very aware of cte... hopefully this will help other guys and their families cope with life after sports...
Jane Tanaka MD January 24, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Thank you Mark and Libi. Agree, lets put the money discussion aside. Not too long ago, "bull in the ring" was a practice ritual for football players of all ages. One of my middle aged patients has permanent brain damage and flashbacks and nightmares still from football in highschool. Thankfully the coaches do screens prior to each season for signs of brain injury and send kids for medical/neurological evaluations if they may have an a concussion.and there is more education on head injury now. But its not enough. As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I still see high school kids with a decline in cognition and mood lability , with no drug abuse, and no family history of bipolar disorder or ADHD, but have a history of multiple concussions from sports injuries including football, hockey, skateboarding, snowboarding and wrestling. Kids feel invincible .. I had to purchase a snowboarding helmet online for one of my patients because he didnt want to listen to his mom and was determined to snowboard without a helmet because they were too dorky looking. We found one online that was acceptable to him. I reminded him about the brain damage he already has sustained, and gave him the image of a soft melon in a china bowl. If you drop it what happens? The bowl ( your skull) breaks and the melon ( your brain ) goes splat.. or atleast is very bruised.) He got it. He wore the helmet on his snowboarding trip.
willi January 25, 2013 at 03:28 AM
Yes, by all means, parents should think long and hard about contact sports. If their kids really want to do it and have a passion for it and they are allowed to participate knowing the risk of injury, then schools and organizations should not be held accountable. This also applies to the NFL. You play, you get paid and you pay.
Mark January 25, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Dr. Should we ban high school football? For the record, I would not permit my son to play (pay).
Komfort January 25, 2013 at 04:04 PM
Here is Jr. crushing the skulls of his opponents: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-VWbBF94PQ Who should they sue?
Jane Tanaka MD January 25, 2013 at 05:19 PM
Mark., In answer to your question, " Should we ban high school football?" Lets open that up to other health care professionals who are reading this blog but not commenting yet please. I'd like their input also. My answer is, typical for a psychiatrist... " Its a huge double bind." (meaning damn if you do.. damn if you dont..) I know many kids who get so much out of school sports, in terms of physical fitness, self esteem, the value of cooperation as a team, self discipline, time managment . I know kids whose grades improve during football season because of encouragement from their coaches , and whose grades decline off season. My wish is that just like in medicine we have the credo "First, do no harm," I wish that safety would always come first with school sports, instead of the philosophy of injuries come with the game.
"Da Moose" January 26, 2013 at 10:32 PM
WoW you got the lance armstrongs,the barry bonds ,Cheater's ,that there high payed lawyers covering the lying,no matter what the price or who thay hurt ,Now Juniors family filed a Suit ,But why is betty hofman filing a suit ???she was the lawyer I talked to after Junior all Most killed me ,told me I wasn't even there and Junior went along with it ,The laywers killed him useing his name ,alcohol,owing $4 million to Vegas,I never herd Junior ever tell me his head hurt ,And after the omission of that morning that was a suicide attempt,where were the Investigators to Investigate the accident ,I fall asleep in my Van and I get a ticket by the same police department who investigated the accident ,for Camping ??? Junior all most kills me and nothing ,He seemed in his right mind that morning ,When he told the police that he fell asleep,,,THAT WAS SOME FAST THINKING ,and thay bought it ,Who knew Football was dangerous???,and You Clowns call me Money Grubbing ,if this don't take Da Cake . Back in Da day football players didn't even wear helmets???60 years later
"Da Moose" January 26, 2013 at 10:38 PM
in my Police report there were 2 witness,Somebody and Citizen where were these 2 people and what did thay see??????
Things I Learned January 26, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Sorry about that everyone. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFAE-ZIntVI
James Jones January 27, 2013 at 12:08 AM
I dislike using "LOL" But...LOL!
"Da Moose" January 27, 2013 at 12:34 AM
Maybe the family will get the same stuped jury I had ,where all 55 members of the jury will know Junior and how he died ,,, Right ken
"Da Moose" January 27, 2013 at 12:36 AM
the only reason People sue ,is that person ,DID NOT TAKE RESPONCEABLETY FOR ONE'S ACTION
"Da Moose" January 28, 2013 at 05:23 AM
it'a all about the lawyer's fighting about 1 word ,no matter what the truth is ,it's about one word ,and the win ,who's idea was the lawsuit ,A LAWYER'S IDEA
Ponce de Leon January 28, 2013 at 06:16 AM
Rolling Stone magazine has an article in the current issue -- "This is your brain on football" which is worth reading if you are interested in learning more about this issue. The article is not available online yet - http://www.rollingstone.com/latestissue. The age at which CTE is showing up is getting younger and younger and according to the article, the 2nd most affected group are cheerleaders (after football players). The NFL acted like the tobacco executives did for years and denied the extent of the problem. Maybe this lawsuit will lead to some changes.
Kevin George January 28, 2013 at 06:18 PM
That stuff is called eVideNts Mooooch. It seems as if your attorney should have looked into that. Huh?.....oh you say all the lawyers you talked to said something about a ten foot pole....hmmmmm. BTW how's the volunteer octogenarian lawyer doing on your appeal?
"Da Moose" January 28, 2013 at 11:46 PM
DING ,DING,DING ...the GOOD DOCTOR Jane Tanaka MD Got it right Junior should of been held for 72 hours ,When the cop lit me up for the 3rd time in the parking lot of the 24 hour ,,, I told him "why don't you just shot Me " and he told me "sounds like you need 72 hours" I told him i want your superviser out here now and he left, If that would of be george and same thing happened ,72 hours ,court dates ,and I would of been called by the D.A. as a witness in the event that almost killed me .
Libi Uremovic January 29, 2013 at 01:27 AM
anyone want to bet $1.00 that we will soon read about dr. tanaka needing a restraining order ....followed by a lawsuit for ...i don't' know what, but da moose will think of something...lots of things i'm sure...
"Da Moose" January 29, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Junior was making $38K bets in Vegas,,, I'll put a few bucks an that bet,,,You think the Estate going to pay Vegas it's $4 Mill. Back with the suit??? There's libi spaying all over the place ,she finlly got here head out ,libi if that was a george how did this and nt Junior ,,,Thing would of been way differant,,But It was Junior and everyone turn there head ,and ofered me 20% of my Medical bills ,,,And libi ,That's Call "Bad Faith Car Insurance" check it out ,,, you can't offer a person $2K when there Meds. are $20K and with All the New cunfestion's of "I WAS AWAKE" and any defence lawyer can twist the Truth around to make a Moose ,look Like a monkey.o.j. got off killing my friend NaCool
"Da Moose" January 29, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Like I said in my Closing "Junior Seau ,Worlds Greatest football Player ,But just another Ca. DMV Driver."
Kevin George January 29, 2013 at 04:59 PM
" CUNFESTION'S" ( though the apostrophe is a nice touch ) How could anyone possibly make you look like a monkey?

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