NCAA Is Sued By Family of Student Athlete Who Committed Suicide

Apr 26, 2019

In what will undoubtedly be a closely watched lawsuit, the family of a Washington State University Football player, who hung himself, has sued the NCAA, claiming wrongful death, as well as the more traditional claims of negligence, breach of contract, and fraudulent concealment.
Significantly, the late Dorian Boose played his college football between 1995 and 1998. He committee suicide in 2016 after a dramatic decline in his cognitive abilities, according to the March 27 complaint, which was filed in the Southern District of Indiana.
An autopsy revealed that there had been “prominent neurodegenerative changes” to Boose’s brain, which correlated with his “history of progressive decline in cognitive function and behavioral abnormalities.”
The family, represented by Raizner Slania LLP and Edelson PC, are alleging that concussions and sub-concussive hits served as a catalyst for that “decline.” Further, they allege The NCAA was aware of the risk (fraudulent concealment) and failed to take action (negligence) to protect student athletes like Boose, as promised (breach of contract).
Potentially complicating matters for the plaintiff is that Boose played professionally in the NFL for the New York Jets and the Washington Redskins.
The plaintiff is seeking the creation of a class comprised of “all authorized representatives of deceased or legally incapacitated individuals who participated in WSU’s varsity football program between 1952 and 2010.”
Notably in the complaint, the plaintiff alleged that “while the NCAA knew of the harmful effects of TBIs (and other head injuries) on athletes for decades, they (sic) ignored these facts and failed to institute any meaningful methods of warning and/or protecting the athletes, including football players like Dorian Boose. For the NCAA, the continued expansion and operation of college football was simply too profitable to put at risk.
“… Instead, in complete disregard of the vast body of known scientific evidence and the resources and authority that it possessed, the NCAA failed prior to 2010 to, amongst other things, do any of the following:
implement adequate guidelines or rules to prevent repeated head injuries and impacts, and failed to educate players, including Dorian Boose, about the increased risk of head injury in football, particularly under circumstances when the helmet is used as a weapon when tackling, blocking, or running with the football;
recommend or enforce adequate return to play procedures or take action to educate athletes, including Dorian Boose, about the risks of repetitive head injuries;
conduct a football program that proactively encouraged Dorian Boose and other WSU football players to avoid head injuries, instead compelling players to ignore concussion symptoms and continue to play football within moments of experiencing concuss ion symptoms. For instance, WSU coaches demanded that their football players, including Dorian Boose, forego their own self-interest and continue playing despite sustaining head injuries — all for the purpose of advancing the WSU football program by winning games, obtaining fame and favorable publicity, and gaining millions of dollars in revenue for the NCAA; and
contact football players, including Dorian Boose, after they let WSU to inform them that they had been exposed to an increased risk of long-term brain damage by the head injuries and impacts sustained while playing football for WSU.
“It was not until April 2010, under mounting public pressure, that the NCAA made changes to its concussion treatment protocols, this time enacting a new policy that required its member institutions to have a Concussion Management Plan in place for all sports.”


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