NFL wants out of brain injury lawsuit involving ex-player who killed 6 in Rock Hill

The NFL now wants out of a brain injury lawsuit filed by the family of former player Phillip Adams, who deputies say killed six people near Rock Hill in 2021 before killing himself, federal court documents show.

The suit alleges the league and S.C. State University failed to provide proper care for Adams during his football career as both a college and pro player. The league first asked the case to be moved from state to federal court and now it wants to be dropped as a defendant.

The NFL’s lawyers stated in court filings the league “will argue to have the case dismissed” because Adam’s claims are preempted by federal labor laws and a collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and its players that outlines medical care requirements, the document states.

On May 1, the NFL sought to move the case from South Carolina state court in Orangeburg to federal court in Columbia. Adams’ family lawyers want the case to stay in state court.

“NFL Defendants’ position is that the claims against them should not proceed at all,” lawyers for the NFL wrote in Thursday’s filing.

Craig Wilkerson of Rock Hill, one of the lawyers for the Adams family, declined comment Friday on the NFL seeking to have the case dismissed.

Wilkerson and co-counsel Gedney Howe of Charleston told The Herald earlier this week they intend to fight to have the lawsuit heard in South Carolina state court in Orangeburg.

Efforts by The Herald Friday to reach the NFL’s lawyers in Charleston who filed Thursday’s documents were unsuccessful.

What happened in 2021 mass shooting?

Adams played football at Rock Hill High before playing at S.C. State University in Orangeburg. He played in the NFL from 2010 to 2015 with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons.

After his career, Adams was living with his parents in York County in April 2021. In a mass shooting, Adams killed six people at a home near his parents’ house, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said.

The people killed were Dr. Robert Lesslie; his wife, Barbara Lesslie; two of their grandchildren, Adah, 9, and Noah, 5; and two HVAC workers at the house, James Lewis and Robert Shook of Gaston County, North Carolina. Adams then killed himself later that night after deputies surrounded his parents’ home, Tolson said.

What does NFL lawsuit claim?

The lawsuit filed by Adams’ father on behalf of Adams’ son alleges S.C. State, the NFL and NFL Properties knew or should have known that Adams engaged in activity detrimental to his safety when Adams suffered concussions and brain injuries including chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a brain condition allegedly found in former football players that is caused by repeated head trauma.

At a December 2021 news conference in Rock Hill, Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at the Boston University CTE Center, said after examining Adams’ brain the former football player suffered from CTE.

S.C. State has denied all Adams’ allegations and agreed with the NFL about moving the case to federal court, documents show.

The lawsuit seeks damages for claims Phillip Adams’ son suffered emotional and financial losses when his dad died in 2021.

What happens now?

In Thursday’s filing, lawyers for the NFL also asked a federal judge for an extension through at least June 12 to file an official answer to the lawsuit and dismissal documents.

It remains unclear if federal Judge Mary Geiger Lewis will allow an extension, or when Lewis will make a decision about whether the case will be heard in federal or state court.

No hearings have yet been scheduled and no trial dates have been set.