The Montgomery, Ala., based law firm of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C., is representing the family of a former professional football player who was diagnosed after his death with a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head blows. The family has opted not to participate in a settlement agreement with the National Football League (NFL), and instead pursue an individual claim in New York state court. The complaint alleges the organization covered up head injury risks associated with the sport for years.
The lawsuit was filed by Arthur DeCarlo Jr., son of former NFL player Art DeCarlo. Art DeCarlo played in the NFL from 1953 to 1961 for the Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Colts. DeCarlo died in 2013 after years of worsening headaches, and mental and physical decline. After his death, his brain was sent to the Boston University CTE Center, where it tested positive for CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a serious Alzheimer’s-like brain disease that develops from repeated head injuries.
W. Daniel “Dee” Miles III, head of Beasley Allen’s Consumer Fraud Section, is representing the DeCarlo estate. He says the family would not have gotten what it believed would be sufficient compensation under the NFL’s settlement agreement with former players who suffered head blows during games and practices.
“The NFL knew for decades that CTE is a result of multiple concussions, but the league routinely ignored the facts and deliberately failed to provide proper treatment to its players,” Miles said. “The NFL’s wrongful conduct led to Art DeCarlo’s CTE and ultimate death.”
According to DeCarlo’s complaint, the risks associated with repeated head blows have been researched and written about in medical journals for nearly a century; however the NFL failed to adopt standards to protect players. In fact, the complaint alleges the NFL “ignored, minimized, disputed and suppressed” studies linking CTE to football.
DeCarlo claims that in the 1990s, an NFL affiliate organized the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, designed to serve as an independent body to research head trauma in football players. However, the committee allegedly was a “sham” focused on promoting self-serving studies over scientific evidence.
DeCarlo is one of a handful of former NFL players who have opted out of the uncapped class action settlement that was approved last April. Objections to the settlement include concerns that the compensation package is not fair to players who may one day be diagnosed with CTE, which can only be diagnosed posthumously. Others object that the settlement unfairly under-compensates players and their families, like Art DeCarlo, who survive longer, but suffer for decades with the debilitating symptoms of CTE.