U.S. District Court Judge Partially Dismisses Former NFL Players Painkiller Lawsuit

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On Tuesday a U.S. District Court judge partially dismissed a federal lawsuit filed by former NFL players which alleged the NFL violated federal drug laws and passed out painkillers “like candy.” The case, brought in 2015, included 13 plaintiffs and represented a class of more than 1,800 retired players.

The NFL requires league doctors to follow “all federal, state and ethical guidelines” when distributing prescription painkillers. However, according to Judge William Alsup, the lawsuit had little evidence to support the player’s claim that their health problems were a result of the treatment they received from league doctors.

Alsup called the players’ complaint “disorganized, frequently boilerplate, and sometimes contradictory,” which made it “difficult to understand specific claims for relief asserted against individual clubs.”

In a statement he wrote:

“In such a rough-and-tumble sport as professional football, player injuries loom as a serious and inevitable evil. Proper care of these injuries is likewise a paramount need,” Alsup wrote. “The main point of order is that the league has addressed these serious concerns in a serious way — by imposing duties on the clubs via collective bargaining and placing a long line of health-and-safety duties on the team owners themselves. These benefits may not have been perfect, but they have been uniform across all clubs and not left to the vagaries of state common law. They are backed up by the enforcement power of the union itself and the players’ right to enforce these benefits.”

Alsup dismissed the entire lawsuit except for 12 claims of intentional misrepresentation. However, all of the NFL players can still appeal his ruling.

GCE reported that last month the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) filed a grievance against the NFL, claiming the league violated the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) based on their distribution of prescription painkillers to players.

Regardless of Judge Alsup’s ruling, the NFL clearly has a problem with the distribution of painkillers to their players. The league needs to be steadfast in finding an alternative pain medication to give their players that are both less addictive and less harmful.

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