NHL Sees Second Defeat in Concussion Litigation

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By Steven M. Sellers

May 19 — Former pro ice hockey players may proceed with class action claims that the National Hockey League failed to warn them of long-term brain injury risks associated with repeated concussions, the District of Minnesota ruled May 18.

More discovery is needed to determine when the retired players' causes of action accrued and whether collective bargaining agreements govern their claims, the court said.

The ruling rejected the NHL's motion to dismiss state-law negligence, negligent misrepresentation and medical monitoring claims in the would-be class action.

The league asserted the CBAs governed and preempted the players' tort claims under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §185(a), which governs “[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization.”

But as retirees, the players are no longer subject to collective bargaining and it isn't clear that the agreements control their claims, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota said.

Players in two proposed classes contend the NHL knew, or should have known, that the head impacts players endured increased their risk of developing degenerative conditions including Alzheimer's Disease and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a brain disorder diagnosed only after death (44 PSLR 168, 2/22/16).

The court in March had also declined to dismiss the cases on statute of limitations grounds, ruling that more fact-finding is needed to determine when each player's claim accrued.

Judge Susan Richard Nelson wrote the opinion.

Representation of the plaintiffs includes Zimmerman Reed, as well as Robbin Geller Rudman & Dowd and Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White

Proskauer Rose, as well as Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Faegre Baker Daniels represented the National Hockey League.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven M. Sellers in Washington at ssellers@bna.com.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com and Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bna.com