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Class Action Case by Former NFL Players Against NFL

Updated: Sep 4

This case law update brought to you by FreewayLaw.com personal injury attorneys, representing injured clients in California and Nevada. If you've been injured, contact FreewayLaw.com attorneys for a free, no obligation consultation. We only represent injured individuals, not insurance companies. The following case is not one of our cases, but it is of significance, and we thought we should share it with our readers for informational purposes.


Dent v. Nat’l Football League (9th Cir. 19-16017 8/7/20) § 301 LMRA Preemption


The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of a third amended complaint (“TAC”) brought by a putative class of former National Football League (“NFL”) players, alleging that the NFL negligently facilitated the hand-out of controlled substances to dull players’ pain and to return them to the game in order to maximize profits.

The panel affirmed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ per se theory of negligence. The panel held that while the district court’s order held plaintiffs to an unnecessarily high pleading standard, it still correctly identified the main deficiency in plaintiffs’ pleading: the dearth of allegations regarding NFL behavior that violated the duty to comply with federal and state laws outlined in the TAC. In addition, the panel held that although it was evident that plaintiffs suffered serious and long-standing injuries, plaintiffs could not explain exactly what NFL actions were responsible for them, and therefore it was impossible to ascertain whether there was proximate causation.

The panel held that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a voluntary undertaking theory of negligence to survive a motion to dismiss, and the district court erred in concluding otherwise. Specifically, the panel held that plaintiffs’ allegations supported their theory that the NFL undertook The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of a third amended complaint (“TAC”) brought by a putative class of former National Football League (“NFL”) players, alleging that the NFL negligently facilitated the hand-out of controlled substances to dull players’ pain and to return them to the game in order to maximize profits. The panel affirmed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ per se theory of negligence. The panel held that while the district court’s order held plaintiffs to an unnecessarily high pleading standard, it still correctly identified the main deficiency in plaintiffs’ pleading: the dearth of allegations regarding NFL behavior that violated the duty to comply with federal and state laws outlined in the TAC. In addition, the panel held that although it was evident that plaintiffs suffered serious and long-standing injuries, plaintiffs could not explain exactly what NFL actions were responsible for them, and therefore it was impossible to ascertain whether there was proximate causation. The panel held that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a voluntary undertaking theory of negligence to survive a motion to dismiss, and the district court erred in concluding otherwise. Specifically, the panel held that plaintiffs’ allegations supported their theory that the NFL undertook the duty of overseeing the administration of the distribution of pain medications to players, and the NFL was aware that it should be providing protections. The panel also concluded that there were adequate allegations that the NFL’s carelessness in allowing drugs to be distributed as they were increased the risk of harm to plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs argued that the TAC allegations supported a negligence claim arising out of the special relationship between themselves, as players, and the NFL. The panel rejected the argument because plaintiffs failed to reference a special relationship in the TAC, and upheld the district court’s dismissal of this theory.

Because the district court did not consider whether plaintiffs’ voluntary undertaking claim was preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, the panel remanded to the district court for consideration in light of the relevant collective bargaining agreements, and the guidance in prior appeal outlined in Dent v. Nat’l Football League, 902 F.3d 1109 (9th Cir. 2018).


To read the Court's opinion click here:

https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2020/08/07/19-16017.pdf

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