The National Football League was sued by the widow of former San Diego Chargers defensive back Paul Oliver, claiming his suicide last year was the result of head trauma and concussions he sustained.
The NFL ignored, minimized and disputed the long-term health risks players were exposed to because of repeated head collisions, Chelsea Oliver said in a complaint filed yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court. She seeks unspecified damages for herself and her sons.
Oliver, 29, shot himself in front of his wife and children at their home in Marietta, Georgia, according to the complaint. At the time of his death, he was suffering from still undiagnosed brain injuries, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, according to the complaint.
The NFL may have to pay as much as $950 million to resolve head-injury claims by former players under an agreement to settle consolidated lawsuits before a federal judge in Philadelphia. About 5,000 players have sued the league alleging it didn’t disclose the risks they faced from repeated traumatic head impacts.
More than a dozen players or their relatives have objected to the settlement, saying it fails to address wrongful-death claims and provides no benefit for players suffering from early effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a potentially fatal brain disease.
“Football players and their families, including Paul Oliver and his family, looked to the NFL for guidance on player safety issues,” Chelsea Oliver said in the complaint. “Although the NFL voluntarily assumed its role with respect to football-player safety at all levels, the NFL has promoted the game’s violence if not expressly monetized it.”
Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the NFL, didn’t immediately respond after regular business hours to an e-mail seeking comment on the lawsuit.
The case is Chelsea Oliver v. National Football League, BC558410, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County.
(With assistance from Sophia Pearson in federal court in Philadelphia.)
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