In a verdict with wide-ranging implications for athletes, a jury in Los Angeles rejected a $55 million lawsuit filed by the widow of a former USC football participant, claiming that the NCAA is accountable for his death.
Matthew Gee, a linebacker on USC’s 1990 Rose Bowl-winning squad, endured an estimated 6,000 hits as a school athlete, legal professionals for his widow stated. They alleged these impacts precipitated everlasting mind injury, and led to cocaine and alcohol abuse that ultimately killed him at age 49. Gee died in his sleep at his Simi Valley, California dwelling on December 31, 2018.
The NCAA, the governing physique of US faculty sports activities, stated it had nothing to do with Gee’s death, which it stated was a sudden cardiac arrest introduced on by untreated hypertension and acute cocaine toxicity.
Matthew Gee, a linebacker on USC’s 1990 Rose Bowl-winning squad, endured an estimated 6,000 hits as a school athlete, legal professionals for his widow stated. They alleged these impacts precipitated everlasting mind injury, and led to cocaine and alcohol abuse that ultimately killed him at age 49. Gee died in his sleep at his Simi Valley, California dwelling December 31, 2018
Alana Gee, left, the widow of a former University of Southern California football participant suing the NCAA for failing to defend her husband from repetitive head trauma, and her daughter, Malia, heart, depart the Stanley Mosk civil courthouse of LA Superior Court on October 21
‘We are gratified that the jury, after contemplating 4 weeks of proof and testimony, agreed overwhelmingly with our place in this case,’ stated Scott Bearby, the NCAA senior vp of authorized affairs and normal counsel.
‘The NCAA bore no accountability for Mr. Gee’s tragic death, and moreover, the case was not supported by medical science linking Mr. Gee’s death to his faculty football profession. We specific our deepest sympathies to Mr. Gee’s household.’
Hundreds of wrongful death and private damage lawsuits have been introduced by faculty football gamers in opposition to the NCAA in the previous decade, however Gee’s was the first one to attain a jury. The swimsuit alleged that hits to the head led to persistent traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative mind illness recognized by the acronym CTE.
Judge Terry Green advised jurors in Los Angeles Superior Court they ‘made historical past’ in the first case of its sort.
The verdict doubtless provides the NCAA extra leverage in future instances, stated Dan Lust, a sports activities regulation lawyer and professor at New York Law School.
‘Any plaintiff’s lawyer is going to assume twice earlier than placing all the chips on the desk and pushing them to the center and saying, ”We’re going to take our case to trial and see what occurs,” Lust stated.
A CTE professional, who requested anonymity from the Los Angeles Times, disagreed, saying the verdict ‘doesn’t suggest the door is closed for future instances, but it surely does imply the bar is larger… There are rather more highly effective instances on the market.’
Alana Gee choked up as the verdict was learn and had tears in her eyes afterward. She advised one of her legal professionals that she didn’t perceive how the jury got here to the resolution, however thanked the seven girls and 5 males on the panel personally as they left the courtroom. She declined to remark afterwards.
PICTURED: The $55 million lawsuit filed by Alana Gee, the widow of a former USC participant
Gabe Feldman, a sports activities regulation professor at Tulane University, stated proving Gee died particularly from invisible accidents suffered at USC – and never one thing that occurred earlier than or after his faculty profession – was all the time going to be a problem, particularly when he had so many different well being issues.
That was additional sophisticated by the NCAA argument that they did the greatest they may for security with the data they’d at the time, and that gamers assumed the dangers of an inherently harmful sport.
‘Given the unpopularity of the NCAA and a sympathetic plaintiff, and the jury nonetheless dominated in opposition to the plaintiff, that is pretty telling,’ Feldman stated. ‘This was a calculated danger by the NCAA taking this to trial figuring out that this might probably be a bellwether case that might probably present a roadmap to a whole lot or 1000’s of different plaintiffs.’
The jury had to vote at the least 9-3 to attain a verdict on questions asking whether or not the NCAA did one thing or failed to do one thing that elevated dangers to Gee and whether or not it failed to take measures that will have minimized dangers to Gee with out altering the sport of football. The panel voted 11-1 and 10-2 answering these questions in favor of the NCAA.
‘We really feel deep sympathy for the Gee household proper off the bat,’ stated NCAA lawyer Will Stute. ‘But we really feel like this verdict is a vindication of the place we have taken in all these instances, which is the science and medication in Matthew Gee’s circumstance didn’t help causation.’
Stute had argued that medical proof is not clear on what causes CTE, and what the impacts are from that illness.
Attorneys for Gee stated CTE, which is discovered in athletes and army veterans who suffered repetitive mind accidents, was an oblique trigger of death as a result of head trauma has been proven to promote substance abuse.
Alana Gee had testified that the faculty sweethearts had 20 good years of marriage earlier than her husband’s psychological well being started to deteriorate and he turned indignant, depressed and impulsive, and started overeating and abusing medicine and alcohol.
Alana Gee (left) is seen strolling right into a Los Angeles courtroom in October
The NCAA stated the case hinged on what it knew at the time Gee performed, from 1988-92, and never about CTE, which was first found in the mind of a deceased NFL participant in 2005.
Gee by no means reported having a concussion and stated in an utility to play with the Raiders after graduating that he had by no means been knocked unconscious, Stute stated.
‘You cannot maintain the NCAA accountable for one thing 40 years later that no person ever reported,’ Stute stated in his closing argument. ‘The plaintiffs need you in a time journey machine. We haven’t got one … at the NCAA. It’s not truthful.’
Attorneys for Gee’s household stated there was little doubt Matt Gee suffered concussions and numerous sub-concussive blows.
Mike Salmon, a teammate who went on to play in the NFL, testified that Gee, who was staff captain his senior yr, was as soon as so dazed from successful that he could not name the subsequent play.
Gee was one of 5 linebackers on the 1989 Trojans squad who died earlier than turning 50. All displayed indicators of psychological deterioration related to head trauma.
As with teammate and NFL star Junior Seau, who killed himself in 2012, Gee’s mind was examined posthumously at Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center and located to have CTE.
Jurors weren’t allowed to hear testimony about Gee’s deceased teammates.
Alana Gee’s legal professionals had argued that the NCAA, which was based in 1906 for athlete security, had recognized about impacts from head accidents since the Nineteen Thirties however failed to educate gamers, ban headfirst contact, or implement baseline testing for concussion signs.