Jury clears NCAA of liability in ex-USC LB’s death
LOS ANGELES– In a verdict that might affect many claims by professional athletes who sue sports companies for head injuries, a Los Angeles jury on Tuesday rejected a claim seeking $55 million by the widow of a previous USC football player who said the NCAA failed to protect him from duplicated head trauma that led to his death.Matthew Gee, a linebacker on the 1990 Rose Bowl-winning team, sustained an approximated 6,000 hits as a college professional athlete, legal representatives for his widow said. They declared these impacts triggered irreversible brain damage, and resulted in drug and alcohol utilize that eventually eliminated him at age 49.
The NCAA, the governing body of U.S. college sports, stated it had nothing to do with Gee’s death, which it stated was an abrupt cardiac arrest brought on by untreated hypertension and acute cocaine toxicity. A lawyer for the NCAA said Gee experienced lots of other health issue not associated with football, such as liver cirrhosis, that would have eventually eliminated him.Hundreds of wrongful death and accident suits have been brought by college football players versus the NCAA in the previous years, however Gee’s was the first one to reach a jury. The fit alleged that hits to the head caused persistent distressing encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease known by the acronym CTE. Judge Terry Green told jurors in Los Angeles Superior Court they”made history”in the very first case of its kind. “We are gratified that the jury, after thinking about 4 weeks of proof and testimony, concurred overwhelmingly with our position in this case, “Scott Bearby, NCAA senior vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, stated in a declaration.”The NCAA bore no responsibility for Mr. Gee’s awful death, and additionally, the case was not supported by medical science connecting Mr. Gee’s death to his college football profession. We reveal our deepest sympathies to Mr. Gee’s household.” The declaration also stated the company”will continue to strongly safeguard
against cases like this that wrongly try to make use of the legal system to unfairly target the NCAA.”The decision likely gives the NCAA more take advantage of in future cases, stated Dan Lust, a sports law lawyer and professor at New York Law School.”Any plaintiff’s attorney is going to hesitate before putting all the chips on the table and pushing them to the middle and stating,
‘We’re going to take our case to trial and see what occurs,”‘Lust said.Alana Gee choked up as the verdict read and had tears in her eyes later. She told among her legal representatives that she didn’t comprehend how
the jury pertained to the decision, however thanked the 7 ladies and 5 males on the panel personally as they left the courtroom. She declined to comment afterward.Gabe Feldman, a sports law professor at Tulane University, said proving Gee died specifically from invisible injuries suffered at USC– and not something that happened prior to or after
his college career– was constantly going to be challenge, specifically when he had many other health problems.That was even more made complex by the NCAA argument that they did the very best they could for safety with the information they had at the time, which players presumed the risks of a naturally harmful sport.
“Given the unpopularity of the NCAA and a sympathetic complainant, and the jury still ruled versus the plaintiff, that’s fairly telling,”Feldman said. “This was a calculated threat
by the NCAA taking this to trial knowing that this might potentially be a bellwether case that could possibly provide a roadmap to hundreds or countless other plaintiffs. “The jury needed to vote at least 9-3 to reach a decision on questions asking whether the NCAA did something or stopped working to do something that increased dangers to Gee and whether it failed to take measures that would have decreased threats to Gee without altering the sport of football. The panel voted 11-1 and 10-2 responding to those concerns in favor of the NCAA.” We feel deep sympathy for the Gee family right off the bat,” NCAA attorney Will Stute stated.”But we feel like this decision is a vindication of the position we have actually taken in all these cases, which is the science and medication in Matthew Gee’s circumstance did not support causation.”Stute had actually argued that medical evidence is not clear on what triggers CTE, and what the effects are from that disease.Attorneys for Gee said CTE, which is discovered in professional athletes and military veterans who suffered recurring brain injuries, was an indirect cause of death due to the fact that head trauma has been revealed to promote compound abuse.Alana Gee had affirmed that the college sweethearts had 20 great years of marital relationship before her partner’s psychological health began to deteriorate and he became angry, depressed and impulsive, and began overeating and abusing drugs and alcohol.The NCAA stated the case depended upon what it understood at the time Gee played, from 1988 to’92, and not about CTE, which was very first discovered in the brain of
a departed NFL player in 2005. Gee never reported having a concussion and stated in an application to play with the Raiders after finishing that he had never ever been knocked unconscious, Stute said.”You can’t hold the NCAA responsible for something 40 years later on that nobody ever reported,”Stute said in his closing argument. “The plaintiffs desire you in a time travel machine. We do not have one at the NCAA. It’s not fair. “Lawyers for Gee’s household stated there was no doubt Matt Gee suffered concussions and numerous sub-concussive blows.Mike Salmon, a colleague who went on to play in the NFL, affirmed that Gee, who was team captain his senior year, when was so stunned from a hit that he couldn’t call the next play.Gee was among five linebackers on the 1989 Trojans squad who passed away before turning 50. All showed indications of psychological wear and tear associated with head trauma.As with colleague and NFL star Junior Seau, who killed himself in 2012, Gee’s brain was taken a look at posthumously at Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center and discovered to have CTE.Jurors were not enabled to hear testimony about Gee’s departed teammates.Alana Gee’s lawyers had argued that the NCAA, which was established in 1906 for professional athlete security, had known about impacts from head injuries considering that the 1930s but failed to inform players, ban headfirst contact or carry out standard screening for concussion symptoms.The Associated Press contributed to this report.