A $20 million federal lawsuit has been filed against the NFL and the New England Patriots on behalf of the former fiancee and daughter of Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide this year while serving a murder conviction. The lawsuit was filed the same day it was revealed that Hernandez had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Doctors at Boston University studied the brain of the former Patriots tight end and determined that Hernandez had Stage 3 CTE, an advanced form of the neurodegenerative disease. CTE, which can only currently be diagnosed in an autopsy, can be caused by repeated head trauma and leads to symptoms like violent mood swings, depression, and other cognitive difficulties. Hernandez’s CTE was allegedly the most severe case of CTE that the Boston University researchers had ever seen for someone of his age. Advanced stage 3 of CTE is usually found in the median age of 67-year-old men.
Beginning in 2005, a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist found CTE in the brains of diseased NFL players Mike Webster, Terry Long, Andre Waters, Justin Strzelczyk, and Tom McHale. Between 2008 and 2010, the bodies of twelve former professional American football players were diagnosed with CTE postmortem by Dr. Ann McKee.
In 2012, roughly four thousand former NFL players joined civil lawsuits against the League, seeking damages over the League’s failure to protect players from concussions. On August 30, 2013, the NFL reached a $765 million settlement with the former NFL players over their head injuries. According to the settlement, players whose careers concluded before July 2014 gave up the right to sue the NFL unless they opted out. Hernandez’s last NFL game was in January 2013.
The recent lawsuit, therefore, could face one major hurdle: Hernandez was not listed among the players who opted out of a concussion settlement with the league. By opting out, Hernandez’s daughter and former fiancee may be confined by the terms of the settlement. This could mean the defendants could easily have the case dismissed.
Hernandez was charged with murdering his former friend and semi-pro football player, Odin Lloyd, in June 2013. He was arrested just nine days after Lloyd’s death, and released by the Patriots just 90 minutes after his arrest. He was found guilty of first-degree murder and five weapons charges in April 2015, which carried a mandatory sentence of life without possibility of parole (LWOP). Hernandez committed suicide in prison while serving this sentence. His conviction was voided following his death because Hernandez had not yet exhausted his options for appeal pursuant to Massachusetts law.
While serving a sentence of life for Lloyd’s murder, Hernandez was found hanged in his jail cell in April. He was 27 years old.
The 18-page complaint argues that both the NFL and the Patriots had complete knowledge of the damage that could be inflicted from repetitive impact injuries and failed to adequately protect Hernandez from such damage. The lawsuit further contends that as a result of defendants’ conduct and Hernandez’s injury, his daughter was deprived of the love and companionship of her father while he was alive.
An NFL representative said he believed the claim would face “significant legal issues” and that the NFL intended to “contest the claim vigorously.” He also stated that Hernandez’s personal history was complex and his suicide could not be attributed entirely to CTE. He was convicted of a homicide and had documented behavioral issues long before he played in the NFL. He said settlement was not a likely option for Hernandez’s case.
If you or a loved one was harmed by another party’s negligence, you may need the assistance of a sports accident lawyer to seek compensation. At the Neumann Law Group, our Massachusetts attorneys provide trustworthy legal representation to victims all over the state. Contact us toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or use our online form to set up a free consultation.
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