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Filling Up the Concussion Litigation Docket

2012 October 3

In the past seven days, more than 100 former players joined the concussion litigation club. There were eight separate lawsuits filed in five different states.

The first lawsuit was filed in Texas and it named 24 former players, including All-Pro Audray McMillian, Jerry Stovall, Paul Wiggin and Greg Wesley.

The second lawsuit was filed in New York and it named 28 former players – none of whom are very recognizable. Another one was filed in South Carolina, led by All-Pro Punter Todd Sauerbrun, who, among other things, has been linked to performance enhancing drugs.

Four of the eight lawsuits were filed in Philadelphia – the main forum of the concussion litigation. Some of the notable players include Luther Elliss and Wes Chandler.

The most intriguing lawsuit was filed in Atlanta, and though it didn’t name any high-profile players, it did include a former fugitive. The Estate of Jeff Komlo filed a survival action on behalf of the late, mediocre quarterback.

A Sports Illustrated article provides the detailed events of Komlo’s “descent into darkness” and subsequent death. Suffice it to say, Komlo had it all — family, cars, mansions, money, etc. — and then lost it all after a bitter divorce, a midlife crisis, and an appearance on America’s Most Wanted. After he allegedly attempted to blow up his girlfriend, he fled to Greece where he spent his final years working at a hair implant clinic. Then, on the early morning of March 14, 2009, Komlo was tossed through his windshield, and ironically died due to a cranial fracture at the age of 52.

According to the SI article, his daughters and ex-wife ceased all communication with him after he fled the country. So, it’s likely his Estate — the party bringing the lawsuit — is administered by his father, mother and siblings.

Of course, Komlo’s attorney will argue that football, specifically the NFL, led to his demise — obviously this will be difficult, or nearly impossible to prove. His erratic behavior, however, is consistent with symptoms related to CTE. Justin Strzelczyk also died in a fiery car crash, and it was later determined that he had CTE. Unlike the majority of deceased players whose families are suing the NFL, it appears that Komlo’s brain was never examined for CTE.

The family of Shane Dronett, Dave Duerson and Andre Waters each had the former player’s brain examined for CTE; all were diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease. Instead of having solid evidence of brain damage, Komlo’s attorney will have to convince a jury, inter alia, that Komlo’s behavior was consistent with CTE, it was caused by his playing days in the NFL, and it led to his death — an extremely, perhaps impossible, argument, indeed.

The latest flood of concussion lawsuits brings the total to 159, which includes 3,690 former players and more than 5,200 plaintiffs in toto.

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