Just over a week after a federal judge overseeing the National Hockey League concussion case denied class-action status for the former players suing the league over head injuries, these same former players took another blow.
And it's a tough one.
According to TSN Senior correspondent Rick Westhead, a lawyer for former players who have filed lawsuits against the NHL said plaintiffs in the case would not appeal a judge’s July 13 decision to deny the players’ motion to proceed as a class action. It now means that it will be up to players to pursue their own claims against the league, said Michael Cashman, a Minnesota lawyer for former NHL players including Joe Murphy.
“There’s no more hiding in the back room,” Cashman said. “Players need to be aware that if they want to seek any relief they are going to have to file their own case.”
While we are expected to know what comes next for these former players in the next few weeks, this comes as a tough blow for all of them and their respective representatives. There were several dozen plaintiffs lawyers who have worked on the case support a request made by an attorney representing the family of deceased NHL player Steve Montador to proceed with their lawsuit against the league as soon as possible.
Montador's case was to be used as "a potential bellwether", noted Westhead.
“The Montadors have got a strong case, more so than someone who’s saying I have symptoms and I don’t know what I’m going to have,” Cashman said. “Montador is a different situation and there’s no reason why they should delay.”
Back in December 2015, Montador’s family filed a lawsuit against the NHL after the former player committed suicide. Montador played for six NHL teams and died in February 2015 at the age of 35. Teammates and friends of Montador were devastated by the loss.
Once Montador underwent a post-mortem exam, it was revealed that he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease that’s been linked to repeated brain trauma.
Montador played 641 games with the Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks and was involved in 69 NHL fights, according to his family’s lawsuit. He suffered at least three concussions in six months in 2003, at least four in nine months in 2010 and at least four in a three-month period in 2012, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit also claims Montador suffered from significant memory issues, sleeping problems, chronic pain, a substance abuse problem, photosensitivity, mood and behavioural changes, anxiety and depression.
Now, with the class-action status denied, players will have to come forward individually to pursue their cases.
“These guys are afraid,” he said. “In football, players aren’t in the NFL system until they are drafted by an NFL team after college. That’s different in hockey where you have to develop skating and stickhandling skills and players are sent away at 14 to play junior hockey and they are totally indoctrinated, told [to] ‘listen to your coach. Do whatever he says.’ In the NFL, that doesn’t happen.”
“Also it seems like in Canada, it’s more like you take your lumps and do it yourself for better or worse. In the U.S., people exposed to more media, especially in the past 20 or 30 years and you’ve got rights for just about everything and people are trained to pursue them.”