NFL Wants to Punt Pain-Meds Issue to Teams

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Tackling claims that it supplied football players with dangerous painkillers to mask their injuries, NFL lawyers noted that union contracts hold individual teams responsible for players’ medical care.
     “Plaintiffs assert state-law claims based on allegedly deficient medical care provided by team doctors and trainers,” lead NFL attorney Allen Ruby said in a Thursday motion to dismiss. “None of their claims could be resolved without interpretation of a CBA [collective bargaining agreement].”
     Those CBAs mean that “the clubs’ medical staff, not the league, have primary responsibility for the diagnosis and treatment of players,” Ruby added.
     “Here, to determine whether and to what extent the NFL assumed duties related to player medical care and whether it then breached any such duty, the court would have to interpret the host of CBA provisions related to player medical care,” the motion says.
     Richard Dent, a former Chicago Bear, is the lead plaintiff in the case. Jeremy Newbery, Roy Green, J.D. Hill, Keith Van Horne, Ron Stone, Ron Pritchard and James McMahon are also named as plaintiffs in the May 2014 complaint that accuses the league of for decades treating their injuries on the field with nonprescription opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and local anesthetics, with little regard for the side effects or the players’ medical histories.
     Among the medications handed out, the players say, were Percodan, Vicodin, Percocet, Prednisone, Toradol, Ambien and Celebrex. Toradol’s complications include renal failure and increased risk of bleeding, but the drug is increasingly used on the athletes, according to the lawsuit.
     The NFL has countered that it bears no legal responsibility because the collective bargaining agreements that govern the terms and conditions of the players’ medical care places the teams’ medical staff in charge of players’ diagnosis and treatment.
     Mandatory grievance procedures also require arbitration of any dispute over provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, the league noted, adding that such proceedings are strongly favored over litigation by federal law.
     “Plaintiffs’ claims challenging their medical care, at the very least, involve compliance with the numerous CBA terms addressing exactly that,” the motion says. “Therefore, they may be resolved only through the process required by the CBAs, and not in court under common law.”
     A hearing on the motion is set for Oct. 30.

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