Family of NHL fighter files wrongful death claim against league

Earlier this month, the Boston Globe reported that the family of deceased NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the National Hockey League. Boogaard was found dead at his Minneapolis condo on May 13, 2011 as a result of an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers and alcohol.

As one of the NHL’s most notorious fighters, the lawsuit claims that the league contributed to Boogaard’s death because of the physical trauma and brain damage he suffered during his six-year professional career. Boogaard, who died at the age of 28, was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE, a brain disease that is associated with multiple concussions.

The lawsuit states that Boogaard was prescribed an “inordinate” amount of pain medication and sleeping aids by league physicians during his time in the NHL. Soon, it became evident that Boogaard had a prescription drug addiction, and the NHL promised to help him recover through rehab.

Boogaard was first send to rehab in 2009 and then for a second time in 2011. Boogaard was granted two extended, unsupervised recesses during his second stint at rehab and died on the first night of his second leave. The lawsuit states that the NHL, among other things, failed to monitor Boogaard’s prescriptions and encouraged him to return to play in games even after he had suffered concussions.

Additionally, the lawsuit states that the NHL knew or should have known that league fighters, or enforcers as they are called, are more prone to injuries, concussions and additions to pain medication. In the 277 NHL games Boogaard played in over six seasons, he reportedly fought at least 66 times on the ice and, according to the family’s lawsuit, suffered dozens of concussions resulting from repeated blows to the head.

Similarly, thousands of former professional football players who say they now suffer from brain damage have sued the NFL alleging that league officials knew the players were at risk of brain injuries from repeated concussions but did nothing to warn or protect them. Included among the lawsuits are wrongful death claims filed by family members of former football players who have died or claimed their own lives and were determined to suffer from CTE.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Boogaard’s family files wrongful-death lawsuit against NHL,” John Branch, May 13, 2013