Sacramento, CA - In a federal lawsuit initially brought by thirteen plaintiffs in May 2015, lead plaintiff Etopia Evans, widow of the late Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens player Charles "Chuck" Evans, filed a federal class action against 32 NFL teams. The case was transferred from Maryland to Northern California in March 2016.
The players claimed NFL teams conspired since at least 1964 to have trainers and team doctors dole out unprescribed pills and injections, sometimes mixing them in "dangerous cocktails," to get players back into games without warning them of the long-term side effects.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup previously dismissed most claims, including conspiracy claims, against all 32 NFL teams, leaving only claims of intentional misconduct against the Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers, three of the original 32 teams named in the case.
The two remaining of the thirteen original plaintiffs, Alphonso Carreker and Reggie Walker, argued their claims fell within a narrow "intentional harm" exception to workers compensation exclusivity laws in California, Colorado and Wisconsin.
In a final blow to the case, the federal judge in the Northern District of California rejected their arguments and struck down what remained of the case.
In a summary judgment ruling Judge Alsup found retired football players could only seek relief through workers' compensation, because their claims against three NFL teams did not fall within narrow exceptions to the well recognized exclusive remedy limits to employer civil liability and that the plaintiffs failed to present facts showing the NFL teams intended to harm players in an egregious manner.
With respect to the California team, the court found that the "fraudulent-concealment exception is an extremely limited one. E.g., Jensen v. Amgen, Inc., 105 Cal. App. 4th 1322, 1326-27 (2003). To recover under the exception, Walker must prove that (1) the Chargers knew of his work-related injury, (2) the Chargers concealed that knowledge from him, and (3) the injury was aggravated as a result of such concealment. The exception does not apply if Walker was aware of the injury at all times."
"In short, it is not enough, as plaintiffs suggest, to insist that the Chargers engaged in some type of fraudulent concealment. Counsel's muddling of plaintiffs' own theories concerning the specific alleged misconduct at issue does not substitute for actually satisfying each and every element of the fraudulent-concealment exception to exclusivity. To lose the protection of workers' compensation exclusivity, the Chargers must have concealed knowledge of Walker's underlying work-related injury from him and aggravated said injury as a result. On this point, plaintiffs have not shown any genuine dispute of material fact in their favor."
"This order recognizes, as have California courts, that workers' compensation exclusivity may bar claims that reveal egregious employer misconduct," Alsup wrote. "But the mere culpability of such misconduct, without more, is not a basis for keeping in court a claim properly subject to the exclusive remedy provisions of workers' compensation laws."
Similar findings were made with respect to the Colorado and Wisconsin exclusive remedy law that governs the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. Read More...