• By: Hank Stout
  • Published: May 2014

A group of retired National Football League players filed a class action lawsuit this week which alleges that the league illegally supplied them with dangerous narcotics and other painkillers in an effort to keep injured players on the field, which led to serious medical complications down the road.

According to the complaint, the NFL obtained and administered powerful drugs illegally, without obtaining prescriptions and without warning players of serious potential side effects such as addiction. The plaintiffs maintain that the league did so in order to maximize profits and keep high-profile players from being sidelined by their injuries. The former players behind the lawsuit further allege that they were never told about broken legs and ankles. Instead, they say, they were given pills to mask the pain so that they would return to the field. Others claim that they retired from the NFL addicted to painkillers.

The players have asserted a number of claims against the league, including negligence and fraud. They seek an injunction that would create a testing and monitoring program funded by the NFL designed to help prevent addiction and disabilities related to the use of painkillers by players. They also seek an unspecified amount of financial damages.

The lawsuit names eight retired players, including three members of the Super Bowl-winning 1985 Chicago Bears: Pro Football Hall of Famer defensive end Richard Dent, offensive lineman Keith Van Horne, and quarterback Jim McMahon. Also named in the suit are Jeremy Newberry of the San Francisco 49ers, Roy Green of the Philadelphia Eagles, Ron Pritchard of the Houston Oilers, J.D. Hill of the Detroit Lions, and Ron Stone, who won two Super Bowl championships as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Lawyers for the plaintiffs seek class-action status, and said in their initial filing that more than 500 other former players will sign on to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a high-profile case that accused the NFL of failing to properly address players’ concussions, leading to devastating disabilities and deaths in a number of former players. The NFL settled the case for $765 million last year in an agreement that assigned no fault to the league. The settlement was later rejected by a judge who feared that the amount may not adequately cover the long-term medical expenses of the hundreds of players who have sustained concussions.

In a statement to CBS, drug lawsuit plaintiff Jeremy Newberry said, “A lot of times team trainers were giving out drugs, none of them have a medical degree. Some of them aren’t even licensed and they’re handing out drugs. They’re handing out anti-inflammatory. They’re handing out pain killers. They’re handing out sleeping pills. They’re handing out this stuff all together.”

Newberry told reporters that he wanted to take part in the lawsuit so that he could promote change in the NFL, which he says relies too heavily on medication in forcing players to play football despite their pain.

The NFL has yet to issue a statement about the lawsuit, which will certainly be one to watch in the coming months. 

Image courtesy of Flickr user vox_efx pursuant to a Creative Commons CC BY SA 2.0 license.

About the Author

Hank Stout is a founding partner at Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm. Hank earned his doctor of jurisprudence from South Texas College of Law and has been actively trying personal injury cases for over ten years. He was recognized by Thompson Reuters as a Rising Star from 2012-2014 and has been recognized as a Super Lawyer since 2014 (a distinction given to less than 1% of the lawyers in the state of Texas). He has earned a Superb rating by Avvo, and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To learn more, read Hank's full bio here.

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