9 former Chiefs players join brain injury lawsuit

Monday, December 23, 2013 | 2:51 p.m. CST
In this Dec. 25, 1989, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Chris Martin, No. 57, consoles Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mark Clayton after Clayton dropped a pass in the waning minutes of the Chiefs' 27-24 win in an NFL football game in Miami. Five former Chiefs players are suing the team, claiming it hid the risks of head injuries. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed Dec. 3, are Leonard Griffin, Chris Martin and his wife, Joe Phillips, Alexander Louis Cooper and Kevin Porter. All say they are suffering from brain damage — specifically chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. Nine additional former Kansas City Chiefs players have joined the lawsuit.

KANSAS CITY — Hall of Famers Albert Lewis and Art Still are among nine former Kansas City Chiefs players who have joined a lawsuit that contends the team hid the risks of permanent brain injuries from repeated concussions.

The concussions happened between late 1987 and early 1993 when there was no NFL collective bargaining agreement in place.

Five former players filed the initial lawsuit against the Chiefs this month, saying the team ignored decades of scientific research indicating repeated head trauma causes permanent brain damage. In the amended lawsuit filed Saturday in Jackson County Circuit Court, the plaintiffs said Arrowhead Stadium's artificial surface contributed to the head injuries.

Also joining the lawsuit were Dino Hackett, Todd McNair, Fred Jones, Tim Barnett, Walker Lee Ashley, Emile Harry and Chris Smith, along with the wives of several of them.

Ken McClain, a lawyer whose firm is representing the plaintiffs, said at least 10 more former Chiefs could join the lawsuit before the end of the year.

"Certainly, Hall of Famers who contributed greatly to building the franchise add to the urgency for the team to find a just resolution, rather than try to ignore it or act like they had nothing to do with it," McClain said.

Chiefs spokesman Ted Crews said the team had no comment.

In recent years, a string of former NFL players and other athletes who suffered concussions have been diagnosed after their deaths with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, including Junior Seau and Ray Easterling, both of whom committed suicide.

In August, the NFL reached a tentative $765 million deal to settle lawsuits filed by more than 4,500 former players who developed dementia or other concussion-related health problems they say were caused by football. The settlement, subject to approval by a federal judge in Philadelphia, would apply to all past NFL players and spouses of those who are deceased.

McClain called the national settlement — which does not include an admission from the NFL that it hid information from players about head injuries — insignificant and said it provides compensation only to the former players with the most severe brain injuries.

Rather than protecting players who sustained concussions, the lawsuit said, the Chiefs increased their risks by giving them "ammonia inhalants, caffeine cocktails and/or Toradol to abbreviate the need for concussed employees to miss working time because of a brain injury." Toradol is an injectable, anti-inflammatory drug used short term to treat moderate to severe pain.

Players were even more prone to head injuries because of the concrete-like AstroTurf surface that was in place until 1994, the lawsuit said.

That surface made the players faster and was cheaper than maintaining a grass field, the plaintiffs said. Because of the heightened violence of high-speed hits, the lawsuit says, the game became more attractive to fans and increased the team's revenue.

Missouri presented a "unique opportunity" to file the lawsuit because a state workers' compensation statute was amended in 2005 to exclude cases of occupational injury that occur over an extended time.

That exception more commonly applies in workplaces where smoking is allowed and workers suffer lung problems because of it. McClain also represented workers at a Jasper popcorn plant who were awarded millions of dollars in lawsuits. They contended they got cancer because of a chemical in butter flavoring used at the plant.

Former Chiefs players Leonard Griffin, Chris Martin, Joe Phillips and his wife, Alexander Louis Cooper and Kevin Porter were the initial plaintiffs in the suit.


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Michael Williams December 23, 2013 | 3:52 p.m.

What about colleges, high schools, and youth leagues??????

I'm unsure if these folks can demonstrate specifically where and when these injuries occurred.

We'll see........

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 23, 2013 | 5:21 p.m.

It could have some commonalities with tort litigation concerning exposure to asbestos. There, the long "latentcy" period between exposure and diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease brought up many questions concerning when and/or where exposure occurred. A 20-year latency period wasn't unusual.

That didn't curb claimants from consistently winning lawsuits, or companies being sued into bankruptcy - or the situation becoming such a problem for the courts that rather than trying to settle suits on individual or class (group) basis in the courts, funds were established, against which claims could be made.

This new group (the article) needs to find a John Edwards or Fred Baron to do for them what those guys did for asbestos claimants. Fred died several years ago, and I question whether John is available. Fred's widow (who practices law under the name Lisa Blue) might be available.

(Report Comment)

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