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Leeman v. NHL: Former NHL Players File Lawsuit Against the NHL for Damages Stemming From Head Injuries

By Michael Furlano

On Monday November 25th, 10 former National Hockey League (NHL) players filed a class action lawsuit against the NHL for damages stemming from the latter allegedly misrepresenting and concealing the effects of repetitive head impacts on long term health.

The suit alleges fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment by the NHL for neither publicizing the link between head impacts and long term brain trauma, nor taking effective action to reduce head impacts during the game.

The plaintiffs argue that:

1. The NHL knew or should have known about the link between repetitive head impacts and an increased risk in neuro-cognitive disability;

2. The NHL, by adopting safety protocols and programs, had voluntarily assumed the duty to protect and inform players of this link;

3. The NHL did not inform players;

4. The NHL did not take sufficient action to reduce head trauma, such as banning fighting and body-checking; and

5. This concealment and misrepresentation led to uninformed players and resulting in reduced interest in player safety initiatives.

The plaintiffs also seek an injunction creating a "court-supervised, NHL-funded medical monitoring program" facilitating the "diagnosis and adequate treatment of Plaintiffs for neuro-degenerative disorder or disease."

The plaintiffs admonish the NHL for creating and promoting a culture of violence/NHL-procured highlights of physical play, players afraid of losing their position if injured, and even third-party produced media focusing on fighting. The complaint states that the NHL should have banned fighting and body checking because the actions create dangerous head impacts and increase the risk of long-term brain injury. It alleges that the NHL is at fault because it did not ban such physical play.

The class action seeks to include all former NHL players as of February 14, 2013 suffering from injuries associated with concussions and sub-concussive events sustained while playing in the NHL. The plaintiffs state that this number could include over 10,000 former players.

The 10 former NHL players named as plaintiffs are: Gary Leeman, Bradley Aitken, Darren Banks, Curt Bennett, Richard Dunn, Warren Holmes, Robert Manno, Blair James Stewart, Morris Titantic, and Rick Vaive. Rick Vaive and Gary Leeman are the most prominent plaintiffs; both are the only Toronto Maple Leaf players to have scored over 50 goals in a single season.

Read the complaint here: NHL-Concussion-Litigation-Complaint-filed.pdf

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