The National Hockey League lost its bid to throw out retired players’ claims it glorified violence and failed to protect them from repeated head injuries and concussions.
Wednesday’s ruling by a federal judge in St. Paul, Minnesota, comes as the National Football League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association struggle to win approval of agreements that would end similar lawsuits against them.
The players said they relied on the league to tell them when it was safe to play after sustaining blows to the head. They are led by Los Angeles Kings player Bernie Nicholls; Dave Christian, who was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team before his NHL career; and Mike Peluso, who played for the New Jersey Devils when the team won the Stanley Cup in 1995.
The severity of the brain injuries they sustained only became apparent after the players retired, according to their complaint.
“Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that they may not have been aware that they had suffered an injury — or the possibility of injury — while they were playing in the NHL,” U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said. She added that the athletes’ claims that the league kept information from them were strong enough to allow the case to proceed.
Bill Daly, deputy commissioner for the New York-based NHL, said in an e-mailed statement that there will be ample opportunity for the league to defend itself in the case.
“While we would have hoped for a different result on this motion, we understand that the case is at a relatively early stage,” he said.
The players are seeking court-ordered medical monitoring as well as unspecified money damages.
The case is In Re National Hockey League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation, 14-MD-2551, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (St. Paul).
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