Pro Hockey Concussion Lawsuit Advances

     (CN) — The National Hockey League must face claims that former players developed long-term neurological conditions from too many concussions, a federal judge ruled.
     A complaint the players filed in St. Paul, Minnesota, says the concussion program the league created in 1997, which led to documentation of game-related head injuries through 2004, shows that the league knew concussions could ultimately lead to neurocognitive illness.
     Files from this program that the litigation has since brought to light includes an August 2014 email wherein NHL spokesman Gary Meagher said the league “has never been in the business of trying to make the game safer at all levels.”
     U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson refused Monday to dismiss the master complaint based on the NHL’s claim about labor law pre-emption.
     “Not one of the eight [union contracts] in effect during that 40-year timeframe is mentioned in the amended complaint,” the ruling states.
     Nelson also emphasized that each plaintiff in this class action is retired and no longer subject to any collective bargaining agreement.
     “At this stage of the proceedings, the court must rely only on the pleadings, or documents fairly embraced by the pleadings, and not a cherry-picked record introduced solely to contradict plaintiffs’ allegations,” she wrote.
     Though the NHL also wanted a stay, Nelson said “discovery is necessary to shed light on the nature of plaintiffs’ claims, when those claims accrued, and which — if any —[collective bargaining agreements] might be relevant.”
     “If a full record ultimately reveals that plaintiffs’ claims accrued while they were subject to a [collective bargaining agreement], and that those claims are substantially dependent on interpretation of the [agreement], then the court could properly determine that the claims are preempted by labor law preemption,” she added. “In the meantime, however, defendant’s motion to dismiss is premature and must be denied, and, therefore, defendant’s motion to stay is denied as moot.”
     The plaintiffs are represented by Zimmerman Reed in Minneapolis; Chestnut Cambronne; Bassford Remele; Heins Mills & Olson; Lockridge, Grindal, Nauen; and Gustafson Gluek.
     Zimmerman Reed in Scottsdale, Arizona, represents the plaintiffs as well, as do Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White in Baltimore; Corboy & Demetrio in Chicago; Goldman, Scarlato & Penny in Wayne, Pennsylvania; the Levine Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Namanny, Byrne, & Owens in Lake Forest, California; Hellmuth & Johnson in Edina, Minnesota; Robbins, Geller, Rudman & Dowd; Stuart Davidson, Janine Arno, Kathleen Douglas, and Mark Dearman in Boca Raton, Florida, and Leonard Simon in San Diego.
     Faegre Baker Daniels in Minneapolis represents the league, along with Proskauer Rose in New York; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Geoffrey Wyatt, John Beisner, and Jessica Miller in Washington, D.C.; and Shepard Goldfein, James Keyte, Michael Menitove, and Matthew Martino in New York.
     The attorneys did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

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