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Richard Dent, a former Chicago Bear and NFL Hall of Famer, is one of eight retired football players who represent a putative class of individuals who played in the National Football League between 1969 and 2008. They filed their civil action against the NFL in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The Plaintiffs allege that they sustained injuries and chronic medical issues from, or that were exacerbated by, medications given to them during their playing career to mask their pain.

They allege this was the product of an unwritten NFL policy to return them to the field more quickly to maximize television revenues by keeping marquee players in the game, placing revenue above player safety and that the NFL breached a duty it voluntarily undertook to ensure proper recordkeeping, administration, and distribution of federally controlled medications given to players.
The players first sued in 2014 and their case bounced back and forth between U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco who is the trial Judge and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for years. The trial judge twice granted the NFL’s motion to dismiss and both times the Ninth Circuit reversed his decision. The two prior decisions were published at 902 F.3d 1109 (9th Cir. 2018), and 968 F.3d 1126 (9th Cir. 2020).

In December 2021, the judge looked at the undisputed evidence to decide whether the case should go to trial – and he concluded it should not.

In the current appeal – the third in this case – Plaintiffs now challenge three district court orders: an order denying class certification, an order granting summary judgment, and an order denying a motion for relief from judgment.

A thee Judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal rejected the player’s third appeal in the unpublished case of Dent v National Football League – 3:14-cv-02324-WHA (April 2023.

The 9th Circuit plan concluded that (1) the Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that common questions of law predominated for the putative class, (2) summary judgment was proper because the Plaintiffs’ claims are time-barred by the statute of limitations or fail for lack of proof of causation, and (3) denial of the motion for relief from judgment was proper because the Plaintiffs’ corrected expert declaration still failed to prove specific causation.

The opinion noted that “the putative class members include ‘thousands of current and former NFL players spanning 35 years of play, 32 different teams, and medications administered and distributed (and injuries suffered) in at least 23 different states.’ The interested jurisdictions extend beyond the four identified by Plaintiffs. This is fatal to their bid for class certification.”

The statute of limitations bars Plaintiffs’ claims for musculoskeletal injuries, certain latent internal organ injuries, and later addiction because Plaintiffs were on sufficient inquiry notice of the NFL’s conduct at the time they played football – the same conduct that now forms the basis of their negligent voluntary undertaking claims.

Diligent investigation would have timely revealed the necessary facts regarding the NFL’s conduct. Therefore, Plaintiffs cannot avail themselves of the late discovery rule to excuse the running of the limitations statute.”

The district court also properly granted summary judgment for the NFL on Wiley, Dent, and Hill’s claims for internal organ injuries because Plaintiffs’ expert, Dr. Leslie Benet, failed to establish specific causation between the medications taken and the internal organ injuries they alleged. Benet failed to review Plaintiffs’ medical records and merely states the drugs could have caused the ailments – not that they did.