Derek Boogaard’s Family Sues NHL for Death

     CHICAGO (CN) – Former hockey “enforcer” Derek Boogaard’s family sued the NHL, claiming the hockey league’s doctors and trainers prescribed him massive numbers of painkillers, which led to his addiction, overdose and death.
     Robert Nelson, on behalf of Boogaard’s estate and family, sued the National Hockey League (NHL), its board of governors and Commissioner Gary Bettman in Cook County Court.
     Boogaard, 250-pounds and 6 foot 7, was known as the Boogeyman, the league’s most fearsome enforcer – intimidating the opposition with his size and fighting prowess.
     In his six-season career with the Minnesota Wild and then the New York Rangers, he scored only three goals, and was involved in 66 on-ice fights, according to the complaint.
     “During Derek Boogaard’s 2008-2009 season with the Minnesota Wild, he was prescribed over forty prescriptions by Minnesota Wild team physicians, dentists, trainers, and staff, totaling one-thousand-twenty-one pills,” his family says in the complaint.
     Boogaard became addicted to pain pills, “often ingesting up to ten per day,” according to the complaint.
     The family claims the NHL knew about his addiction, and checked him into a rehab center in 2009 for opiate addiction.
     Nevertheless, after signing a $6.5 million contract with the Rangers in 2010, “he was prescribed over seventeen prescriptions for prescription pain medication and other controlled substances by NHL team’s physicians, dentists, trainers, and staff, totaling three-hundred-sixty-six pills,” according to the complaint.
     Six months later, “Boogaard was in an on-ice fight and sustained a cerebral concussion and resulting Post-Concussive Syndrome with persistent symptoms,” the complaint states.
     “Derek Boogaard never played in another NHL game.
     “Prior to this injury, the NHL knew Derek Boogaard had relapsed and was again abusing pain pills. The NHL did not discipline him in any way.
     “On April 4, 2011, Derek Boogaard was so impaired at a New York Rangers practice that he could not stay up on his skates and fell numerous times.”
     The NHL recommended that Boogaard check into a treatment facility for opiate addiction, but therapists said he did not take treatment seriously, according to the complaint.
     “At the time, the NHL knew, or should have known, that Derek Boogaard, a known drug addict, with probable brain damage due to concusssive brain traumas sustained in NHL fights, was not complying with treatment at ARC [Authentic Rehabilitation Center],” the family says in the complaint.
     “Despite the NHL’s knowledge of Derek Boogaard’s drug addiction, on two occasions, the NHL released Derek Boogaard from his treatment facility for a trip without a chaperone.
     “On the first night of his second release from treatment, in Minnesota, Derek Boogaard ingested a Percocet and, shortly thereafter, phoned a member of the SABH [Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health] Program and exchanged seven text messages with this individual.
     “The next day, on May 13, 2011, Derek Boogaard was found dead.”
     A post-mortem study of his brain revealed that Boogaard had “Stage II Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of repeated blows to the head during his hockey career,” the complaint states.
     “CTE caused progressive deterioration in Derek Boogaard’s brain, specifically, in the areas of the brain that control judgment, inhibition, mood, behavior and impulse control. The cumulative effect of Derek Boogaard’s concussive and sub-concussive brain traumas from fighting as an Enforcer/Fighter in the NHL and/or returning to play and fight while recovering from these brain traumas caused, or contributed to exacerbate, the neuro-degenerative disease, CTE, to develop in his brain.”
     In a series of December 2011 articles called “Punched Out,” The New York Times reported that Boogaard became increasingly sullen, manic and lonely, plagued by constant headaches and memory lapses, due to his repeated brain trauma.
     “If the NHL had taken the necessary steps to oversee and protect Derek Boogaard by warning him of the dangers of head traumas and by educating and training all persons involved with the NHL teams in the recognition, prevention, and treatment of concussive brain injuries, Derek Boogaard would not have suffered permanent damage to his brain; would not have developed an addition to prescription narcotics; and would not have overdosed causing his death,” the complaint states.
     Plaintiffs’ attorney William T. Gibbs of Corboy & Demetrio told the Chicago Tribune in a story this week: “The NHL drafted Derek Boogaard because it wanted his massive body to fight in order to enhance ratings, earnings and exposure. Fighting night after night took its expected toll on Derek’s body and mind.”
     Gibbs added: “To deal with the pain, he turned to the team doctors who dispensed pain pills like candy. Then, once he became addicted to these narcotics, the NHL promised his family that it would take care of him. It failed. He died. Today, his family seeks justice for the NHL’s egregious failures.”
     Boogaard’s family filed a previous lawsuit against the NHL, hoping to collect the money left on Boogaard’s contract, plus punitive damages, but it was dismissed as untimely in March.
     In this complaint, the family seeks punitive damages for wrongful death and negligence.

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