Two wrongful-death lawsuits over the suicide of Pro Bowler Junior Seau have been consolidated with NFL concussion litigation in Philadelphia.
A key hearing in the NFL case is set for next week, when lawyers for thousands of former players will try to keep the issue in federal court. The league wants the claims heard in arbitration, under terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
The Seau lawsuits were moved from California, where the 43-year-old linebacker died May 2 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His survivors allege that throughout his career he sustained violent hits that caused traumatic brain injury, depression and ultimately his death.
Seau played for San Diego, Miami and New England during a 20-year career, which ended with his retirement in 2009. He was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, after his death.
Nearly 4,000 former players have filed concussion-related lawsuits, accusing the NFL of hiding the risks of concussions and head injuries and glorifying violence on the field.
"This success comes at a price to the players who make the game great,'' Seau's parents, Tiaina and Luisa Seau, said in their lawsuit.
The other lawsuit was filed on behalf of Seau's four children. The family is seeking an unspecified monetary amount for compensatory and other damages.
Lawyers involved in the class action litigation also want the league to provide medical monitoring for former players.
The NFL doesn't plan to comment on the issue until the April 9 court arguments before U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody, spokesman Brian McCarthy said Tuesday.
In a motion to dismiss the class action lawsuits in August, the league argued that the collective bargaining agreement covers safety and health rules and delegates medical decisions about players to each team. The league also denied any fraud or concealment.
"It stands in contrast to the league's actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions,'' lawyers for the league wrote.
Players accuse the NFL of negligence and argue that league officials concealed known medical links between concussions and brain injuries, leading many of them to suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's disease or be at an increased risk of reckless or suicidal behavior.
A lead plaintiff in the class action case, former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, committed suicide in April, a year after signing on to the litigation.