Last week, former Patriots linebacker Junior Seau, died in what was an apparent suicide at his home in Oceanside, Ca.
Many commentators are now questioning whether Seau’s apparent suicide may be attributable to the head injuries he suffered during his 20 years in the NFL, the Boston Globe reports. If the speculation turns out to be true, could Seau’s family bring a wrongful death suit against the NFL?
In recent years, several deceased football players have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a degenerative disease that is brought on by head trauma, like concussions. It often results in depression and early dementia.
In February 2011, 50-year-old Dave Duerson, a former Bears safety, committed suicide with a gunshot wound to the chest. In his suicide note, he requested that his brain be donated to science for the study of brain trauma in athletes. Last month, former Falcons safety Ray Easterling committed suicide at the age of 62. Easterling previously filed a lawsuit against the NFL over concussion-related issues.
Commentators have noted that Seau had begun to act strangely shortly after retiring in 2010. In October 2010, he plunged 100 feet after driving his car off a cliff. He was also arrested on felony spousal assault charges. According to a friend, Seau had stated that he wanted his brain donated to science.
None of Seau’s NFL injury reports mention concussions. However, commentators contend that early in Seau’s career, the NFL was not as sensitive to concussions and CTE as it is now. If an autopsy shows signs of CTE, Seau’s family could have a viable wrongful death claim against the NFL.
A wrongful death suit is often brought when an employee is killed due to the negligence of his employer. The decedent’s family must show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the decedent, and that by breaching that duty of care directly caused the decedent’s death. Seau’s family would need to show that the NFL was negligent in failing to address concerns over player concussions and CTE, and that Seau’s suicide was the direct result of that negligence. It won’t be easy.
According to former New England Revolution player Taylor Twellman, Junior Seau once told him, “Buddy, buddy, I can’t tell you how many concussions I’ve had.” Hopefully Seau’s death is enough of an impetus for the NFL to start developing ways to curb the rising tide of CTE cases and early deaths.
- Find a Boston Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Junior Seau suicide signals inherent danger of football (Chicago Sun-Times)
- Wrongful Death FAQ (FindLaw)
- Wrongful Death Resources (FindLaw)