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Legal Look: The timing of the lawsuit against the Chiefs

Eric Macramalla, TSN Legal Analyst

12/3/2013 3:20:06 PM

Five former Kansas City Chiefs players are suing the team claiming the team concealed the long-term neurological impact of repeated headshots.

The plaintiffs in the action are Leonard Griffin, Chris Martin and his wife, Joe Phillips, Alexander Louis Cooper and Kevin Porter. The players are alleging they suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, as a result of their days in the National Football League.

This same allegation was made in the NFL's concussion lawsuits. In all, there were over 220 lawsuits involving 4,500 former retired NFL players. This new lawsuit, however, is different than the NFL concussion lawsuits in that the plaintiffs are targeting the team and not the NFL.

There are two reasons for the timing of the lawsuit.

First, these players played between 1987 and 1993. During that time, there was no collective bargaining agreement in place. This is important since the CBA provides that issues of player health and safety go to arbitration and court. That's why the NFL went to court to try and get the players lawsuits punted and sent to arbitration (the court never had a chance to rule on that request since settlement was announced).

So in this case, since there was no CBA in place when the players were playing, they can head to court without the CBA saying they have to go to arbitration.

There's also a local Missouri law that allows employees (or players) to sue employers (or teams) if the employees are declined workman's compensation. That legislation expires at the end of this year so the players may have decided now or never.

One more point. The big NFL concussion lawsuits haven't formally settled.

You may remember that the negotiated settlement was for $765 million and would bind every retired NFL player the day the deal is approved by the Court (that's about 18,000 players).

Settlement was indeed announced; however, the Court still has to approve the settlement proposal. As well, a player may opt out of the settlement and file his own lawsuit. So it's premature to declare that the case is done.

Still much ground to cover.