Five former Kansas City Chiefs players are suing the franchise in an effort to learn what the team knew - and when - about concussions, according to the Kansas City Star.
Kevin Porter, Joe Phillips, Louis Cooper, Chris Martin and Leonard Griffin are suing for damages related to brain injuries suffered during their careers. They are seeking undisclosed financial damages.
The lawsuit is the first known to have been filed against an individual team. The National Football League recently settled the "Concussion Case" for $765 million with former players, without admitting guilt or being ordered to reveal a timeline of the league's knowledge about brain injuries.
The lawsuit against the Chiefs does not name the NFL and does not claim the franchise acted differently than any other team in the league.
"I believe this does have an opportunity to shine a light on our most prized sport and the dangers, which is something that we would all prefer not to look at," Dirk Vandever, one of the plaintiffs' lead attorneys, told The Star.
"I believe this is a way to say to an individual team within the NFL, 'What did you know, when did you know, and what did you do about it?'"
The five players named as plaintiffs all played between 1987 and 1993. There was no collective bargaining agreement in the NFL during that time, opening up teams to be sued individually.
Vandever told The Star that another key element is a 2005 amendment to the workman's compensation statute in Missouri that enables employees to sue employers in civil court if the employees declined workman's compensation. That window expires at the end of 2013.
"The common element, I believe, is every single person loved the Chiefs, loved football, and loved to participate in it," Vandever told The Star. "And there's somewhat of a sense of betrayal that perhaps at a higher level there was a greater awareness of the dangers of it. So yes, they loved doing what they did and they still love the Chiefs. So there's this sense of a need to do something to open up and discover what really happened behind the scenes ...
"They have conflicting emotions. Of course they loved the opportunity to play football. But they would've preferred to have been told everything that was known at the time and to be told, 'We're continuing to investigate the situation.'"
A Chiefs spokesman told The Star that the team and the NFL are aware of the lawsuit but had no comment.
In naming each of the five plaintiffs, the lawsuit obtained by the Star claims "wrongful conduct" by the Chiefs and says each suffered multiple concussions during their careers that led to post-concussion syndrome and "latent brain disease, including, upon information and belief, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy."
In outlining the general allegations, the lawsuit claims the team should have known about long-term affects from post-concussion syndrome and that repetitive head trauma can lead to debilitating neurological impairments, including Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy ("CTE"). It goes on to outline medical studies dating back to 1928 that decribe the link between repetitive head trauma and degenerative brain disease.
The lawsuit claims the Chiefs were in a "position of superior knowledge" and that during the 1987-1993 time frame there was significant medical literature outlining the "serious risk of short-term and long-term brain injury associated with repetitive head trauma in football." The lawsuit contends the Chiefs had a duty to disclose and/or inform the plaintiffs about those risks minus the existence of a CBA.