The NHL's motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit brought by former players over concussion-related injuries was largely rejected Wednesday by a federal judge, allowing the claims to move forward.
The plaintiffs have been seeking unspecified financial damages and medical monitoring for neurological disorders. They've argued the league had the knowledge and resources to better prevent head trauma, failed to properly warn players of such risks and promoted violent play that led to their injuries.
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson wrote in her order that the former players "adequately alleged that the NHL negligently or fraudulently omitted information on an ongoing basis."
Attorneys for the NHL have pointed to a pair of primary grounds for dismissal of the lawsuit: pre-emption and statute of limitations. The gist is that the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players should pre-empt the claim, subjecting the dispute to the National Labor Relations Board, and that a tort claim such as this cannot be made past the six-year window for raising them.
Nelson declined to address one of the NHL's arguments but dismissed the others, in her 33-page ruling.
"While we would have hoped for a different result on this motion, we understand that the case is at a relatively early stage, and there will be ample opportunity for us to establish our defences as the discovery process progresses," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement.
This combination of several lawsuits by more than 200 former NHL players was formally filed last October. As a class-action complaint, the litigation effectively covers the estimated 5,000 living former NHL players. Dan LaCouture, Mikel Peluso, Gary Leeman, Bernie Nicholls, Dave Christian and Reed Larson are the former players serving as six class representatives.
"We are pleased the Court has confirmed the validity of our claims and found the NHL's arguments insufficient to warrant dismissal of this case," attorneys for the plaintiffs said in a statement. "It is time for the NHL to be held accountable for deliberately ignoring and concealing the risks of repeated head impacts, and finally provide security and care to retired players whom the League has depended on for its success."