Duerson's family sues NFL over his suicide

February 23, 2012 3:51:53 PM PST
The family of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson filed a wrongful death suit against the National Football League.

The lawsuit alleges that the NFL caused Duerson's brain damage and death by not doing enough to prevent or treat concussions that led to brain damage. Duerson had several concussions and took his own life at the age of 50.

During his 10-year football career, Duerson suffered three documented concussions. The lawsuit states the NFL failed to diagnose or properly treat those concussions and misrepresented or concealed medical information about brain injuries.

"It goes back to my father," Tregg Duerson said. "I essentially feel he would want me to pursue this...and I'm doing this for him. And I feel that's what my family wants to do."

Tregg and his siblings are behind the lawsuit. Duerson, who was a Chicago Bear from 1983 to 1989, shot himself in the chest a year ago. He told relatives he wanted his brain to be studied, which it was.

The studies showed Duerson had progressive brain damage, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Tregg Duerson said, after retirement his father had problems with short-term memory and controlling his anger.

"You can see his mannerisms change toward the end of his life," Tregg Duerson said.

Thursday's lawsuit alleges that the NFL failed to implement policies, procedures or guidelines on how to handle concussions. It states that starting in 1994, the NFL claimed there was no linkage between repetitive head trauma and cognitive problems later in life.

"They were blatantly wrong. They were absolutely clouding the issue for its retirees, so that these retirees would not pursue claims," William T. Gibbs, Corboy and Demetrio Attorney, said.

"If they knowing failed to inform and implement proper safety concussion procedures, then their indifference was the epitome of injustice."

The Duersons' attorney says the NFL didn't reach out to the football player at any point.

"If the NFL did something for Dave Duerson during his retirement, rather than provide him with false information he likely would not have committed suicide on February 17th of last year," Gibbs said.

The NFL would not comment on the lawsuit, but released a statement that read, "Dave Duerson was an outstanding football player and citizen who made so many positive contributions but unfortunately encountered serious personal challenges later in his life.

"We sympathize with the Duerson family and continue to be saddened by this tragedy."

More than 500 former football players have filed similar lawsuits against the NFL.