An attorney representing three former NFL players, including former Oilers tight end Jimmie Giles, said Friday that he and his colleagues are taking a different legal tack to pursue their clients’ claims against the NFL and its teams for what they believe to be the league’s failure to inform players about the dangers of multiple concussions.
Giles, who played for the Oilers in 1977 and went to the Buccaneers a year later in the trade that gave Houston the draft rights to future Pro Football Hall of Fame member Earl Campbell, joined former Buccaneers Arron Sears and Donald Smith in the suit, filed in a state district court in Tampa. Along with the NFL, the lawsuit names individual teams, including the Oilers under their current corporate guise as the Tennessee Titans, as defendants.
All of the dozens of concussion-related lawsuits have listed the NFL as the primary defendant, not the individual teams, and most have been filed in federal court. Those cases have been combined into a single multi-district litigation case assigned to a federal court in Philadelphia.
But Houston attorney Charles Peckham, who has worked in sports law and employment law and is one of the lawyers in the case, said attorneys have taken the “calculated decision” to sue individual teams and to do so in state court, with no intent of joining the broader case in federal court.
“It’s an effort to make certain that the people who are actually responsible are held responsible in that they communicated the NFL mantra that players can play with concussions,” Peckham said. “There is no reason for this case to be part of the multi-district litigation. It needs to be decided by a Tampa area judge and a jury from that area.”
Paul Anderson, a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City law school who tracks cases at the website NFLConcussionLitigation.com, said the case to his knowledge is the first to cite individual teams – in this case, the Titans, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Lions, Bills and Eagles – in addition to the NFL as defendants.
Anderson said he also expects the case to be transferred to federal court and joined with the other 90-plus cases before the court in Philadelphia, based on previous rulings in a case filed on behalf of the family of the late Dave Duerson. Duerson died in 2011 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was found to have suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease associated with repeated head trauma.
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