Skip to main content

Family Members of Ex-College Football Players File Wrongful Death Lawsuits vs. NCAA

Family members of college football players sue NCAA, claims organization did not inform players of head injury risks

The widow of former Grand Valley State quarterback Cullen Finnerty sued the NCAA claiming concussions caused brain disease and eventually led to early deaths. reports that Jennifer Finnerty was among four family members of college football players who filed wrongful death lawsuits against the NCAA.

Finnerty was the winningest quarterback in NCAA history when he played for Grand Valley State from 2003 to 2006 finishing with a 51-4 career record.

Finnerty, 30, was found dead in the woods after going missing during a fishing trip in Michigan in May 2013.

Analyzing Ploetz v. NCAA, the First Legal Battle Over CTE to Reach Trial

An autopsy performed the day after Finnerty died revealed that Finnetry had a "slightly enlarged heart and slightly cloudy lungs," but "no trauma to the body at all."

It was determined that Finnerty died of pneumonia caused by inhaling his vomit after becoming disoriented during the fishing trip.

His brain was also studied at Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, concluding that the CTE severity was moderate and unlikely a main contributing in his death.

The lawsuit, filed in Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis, claims that Finnerty was "knocked unconscious and suffered multiple concussions and/or sub concussive impacts to the head during games and/or practice" during his playing career at Toledo and Grand Valley State.

The family members of former San Diego State linebacker Jeff Staggs, UCLA and Long Beach State running back Rodney Stensrud and former USC fullback Doug MacKenzie also filed wrongful death lawsuits against the NCAA.

“Our goal is to take these to trial,” Jay Edelson, a lawyer that is representing the plaintiffs in the case, said to the Los Angeles Times. “Our clients want to get in front of a jury. We think a jury is going to act very favorably to the stories that they have, and we want to get there as soon as we can.”