Family of Dave Duerson sues NFL over his 2011 suicide

  • Associated PressIn 2007, Dave Duerson, right, and former Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston, testified at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the NFL retirement system.

    Associated PressIn 2007, Dave Duerson, right, and former Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston, testified at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the NFL retirement system.

Daily Herald report
Updated 2/23/2012 1:39 PM

The Chicago law firm of Corboy & Demetrio said Thursday they have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday against the National Football League on behalf of the family of former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson, who committed suicide last year.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Dave Duerson's son, Tregg Duerson, and three other children, accuses the NFL of knowing the harmful effects of concussions; concealing those facts from Duerson; and negligently causing Duerson's brain damage that resulted in the 50-year-old's death in 2011.


"Dave Duerson played in an era when the NFL failed to aggressively deal with the serious consequences related to a head injury. For this, Dave Duerson and many others paid the ultimate price," said Thomas A. Demetrio, Duerson's lawyer and a founding partner of Corboy & Demetrio.

According to a new release, the suit accuses the NFL of "failing to prevent, diagnose and/or properly treat" Duerson's concussions in 1988, 1990 and 1992, and undocumented concussions throughout his career. The suit also alleges the NFL never warned Duerson that "playing through concussions could, and would, cause permanent brain damage."

Duerson told relatives of his desire that his brain be studied after his death because he believed "there's something going on" in his brain, according to allegations in the suit, filed in Cook County circuit court. It also names helmet maker Riddell Inc. as a defendant and alleges its helmets did not adequately protect players from concussions.

A neuro-pathological review of Duerson's brain at Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy determined that he was suffering from progressive, advanced brain damage, commonly referred to as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which caused or contributed to Duerson's death, according to the lawsuit.

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"CTE has been a known entity to the NFL for years. This degenerative brain disease causes various symptoms ranging from cognitive decline to dementia. The NFL's blatant disregard of the significance of this crisis amongst its retirees is baffling," said Corboy & Demetrio lawyer William T. Gibbs, who is also representing the Duerson estate.

Duerson had no prior history of depression or psychological issues, but in the 10 years leading up to his death he had complained of intense headaches, worsening short-term memory and a growing problem with impulse control, Gibbs added.

The lawsuit also claims the NFL "embarked upon a propaganda scheme designed to mislead NFL players and retirees" about the long-term effects of concussions and other brain trauma.

In addition, the lawsuit accuses former NFL officers of conspiracy to publish false information to its players and retirees.

Duerson was drafted out of Notre Dame by the Chicago Bears in 1983 and played safety until 1989, playing in more than 100 games and being selected to the Pro Bowl four times. From 1990-1993, Duerson played safety for the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals, playing in nearly 60 games. Duerson retired from the NFL in 1993.

According to Tom Demetrio, current players should learn well from what happened to Duerson and other former players.

"Current coaches, trainers and players from the NFL down to the Pee Wee level need to take heed -- avoid concussions as best they can, recognize their significance and when in doubt, sit out! And by all means, don't simply say 'My toe hurts' when it's really your head," Demetrio said.

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