(Photo: Flickr user hyku via Wikimedia Commons.)
The family of a deceased professional football player wants their suit against the National Football League and helmet-maker Riddell severed from the consolidated litigation pending in federal court so the case can be tried in state court.
The family of Adrian Robinson, who was a defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos before he committed suicide at age 25, filed a motion Wednesday seeking to remand their suit from the multidistrict litigation pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania back to state court where it was initially filed.
The family had filed the suit, Robinson v. National Football League, in May in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and, soon after, the defendants removed the case to the MDL.
Robinson suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is a primary injury alleged in the litigation brought by about 20,000 retired NFL players that resulted in a $765 million settlement in 2013. The Robinson plaintiffs, however, contend that their case does not stem exclusively from the three years he spent playing professional football for the NFL, but rather from his lifetime of playing the game, including NFL-sponsored youth football.
“The court and the attorneys involved with the NFL MDL did a remarkable job in achieving a settlement to bring a lot of great needed relief to a lot of families,” Robinson’s attorney, Bradford Sohn of Coral Gables, Florida, said. “But these claims truly have nothing to do with that settlement.”
As part of its reasoning for removing the case, the NFL argued that the Robinsons’ claims are covered by the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement and are therefore pre-empted by the federal Labor Management Relations Act. The Robinson plaintiffs, however, contend that their claims have nothing to do with that agreement.
“The Robinsons do not make any allegations or claims about clinical medical care from NFL club physicians or trainers,” the Robinsons said in the motion. “Nor do any of their claims concern NFL rules or regulations. … That would only confuse what the complaint asserts: conduct by four entities (i.e., a 501(c)(3), a licenser, a helmet-maker, and the NFL) sued by the Robinsons irrespective of his NFL football career.”
The motion characterizes Robinson’s parents as “football parents,” who “fell” for the NFL’s youth marketing, and says the league “targeted” children and their families, despite allegedly knowing that children were particularly vulnerable to CTE.
“Consequently, before his teens, Robinson Jr. began experiencing a constellation of ‘neurological and behavioral complaints’ and clashing diagnoses,” the motion said.
Despite the 2013 settlement agreement, litigation in the MDL has continued to be contentious.
Initially, a group of retired players sought—and failed—to challenge the accord, and opt-out plaintiffs were also recently given permission to outline a new set of claims against Riddell. Attorneys have also butted heads over the $112.5 million pot of legal fees that were awarded following the settlement.
Sean Fahey of Pepper Hamilton, who represented the NFL, did not return a call for comment. Thomas Wagner of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, who represents Riddell, declined to comment.