Add Junior Seau’s family to the thousands of people who are suing the NFL over the long-term damage caused by concussions.
Seau’s ex-wife and four children sued the league Wednesday, saying the former linebacker’s suicide was the result of brain disease caused by violent hits he sustained while playing football.
The wrongful death lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court in San Diego, blames the NFL for its “acts or omissions” that hid the dangers of repetitive blows to the head. It says Seau developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) from those hits, and accuses the NFL of deliberately ignoring and concealing evidence of the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries.
Seau died at age 43 of a self-inflicted gunshot in May. He was diagnosed with CTE, based on posthumous tests, earlier this month.
An Associated Press review in November found that more than 3,800 players have sued the NFL over head injuries in at least 175 cases as the concussion issue has gained attention in recent years. The total number of plaintiffs is 6,000 when spouses, relatives and other representatives are included.
Scores of the concussion lawsuits have been brought together before U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia.
“Our attorneys will review it and respond to the claims appropriately through the court,” the NFL said in a statement Wednesday.
Helmet manufacturer Riddell Inc., also is a defendant, with the Seau family saying Riddell was “negligent in their design, testing, assembly, manufacture, marketing, and engineering of the helmets” used by NFL players. The suit says the helmets were unreasonably dangerous and unsafe.
Riddell issued a statement saying it is, “confident in the integrity of our products and our ability to successfully defend our products against challenges.”
Seau was one of the best linebackers during his 20 seasons in the NFL, retiring in 2009.
“We were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate, suffered from CTE,” the family said in a statement released to the AP. “While Junior always expected to have aches and pains from his playing days, none of us ever fathomed that he would suffer a debilitating brain disease that would cause him to leave us too soon.
“We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations.”
The lawsuit accuses the league of glorifying the violence in pro football, and creating the impression that delivering big hits “is a badge of courage which does not seriously threaten one’s health.”
It singles out NFL Films and some of its videos for promoting the brutality of the game.