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.