5 former Chiefs sue team over head injuries

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 3, 2013 at 9:26 pm •  Published: December 3, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Five former Kansas City Chiefs players who were on the team between 1987 and 1993 filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming the team hid and even lied about the risks of head injuries during that time period when there was no collective bargaining agreement in place in the NFL.

The lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court on behalf of former players Leonard Griffin, Chris Martin, Joe Phillips, Alexander Louis Cooper and Kevin Porter, all of whom played on defense. It seeks more than $15,000 in actual and punitive damages. All five players have opted out of a multimillion-dollar settlement announced this summer that would compensate former players for their head injuries.

The Kansas City plaintiffs claim to be suffering from post-concussion syndrome and latent brain disease because of multiple concussions they sustained while playing for the Chiefs. They all claim also to be suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can only be definitively diagnosed by examining the brain after death.

Martin, a Kansas City resident who played linebacker for the Chiefs from 1988 to 1993, said at a news conference he didn't know that continuing to play in games after sustaining a head injury would cause permanent damage.

"I would have liked to have the opportunity to know that going back on the field would cause me to have severe disabilities later in life," he said. "I didn't know that. That's what the lawsuit is about."

Chiefs spokesman Ted Crews and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello both declined to comment on the suit.

Hours after Martin talked about his brain injuries, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's wife, Jane, and the wives of former NFL players Howie Long and Mike Golic led a discussion with hundreds of mothers about why they should let their children play football.

As part of the safety clinic at the Chiefs' training facility, roughly 200 women of all ages took part in drills designed to teach them proper tackling techniques. Nearly a dozen former Chiefs, including Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Bell, walked the giddy moms through the drills.

Roger Goodell and Chiefs owner Clark Hunt also addressed the women, but did not bring up the lawsuit. They were not available to answer questions from the media.

Plaintiffs' attorney Ken McClain called the proposed $765 million settlement between the NFL and former players insignificant and said it provides compensation only to the former players with the most severe brain injuries.

None of the five plaintiffs will get monetary compensation under that deal, he said.

"All they're going to be is monitored over time, but no relief will be offered to them," McClain said. "It's really a very small amount of money if you do the math. It's paid out over 20 years, it's $765 million total. It's a little under $20 million a year the teams are contributing to these very severely injured people. It's not very much money."

It wasn't known whether similar lawsuits might be filed in other states, given the nation's patchwork workers' compensation laws. McClain said Missouri presented a "unique opportunity" because a state workers' comp statute was amended in 2005 to exclude cases of occupational injury that occur over an extended time.

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