Widow asks $55M from NCAA for ex-USC football player’s death

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Attorneys requested a jury Monday to award $55 million to the widow of a former USC football participant in a landmark case accusing the NCAA of failing to guard him from repetitive head trauma that led to his death.

Matthew Gee, a hard-hitting linebacker who was on the 1990 Rose Bowl-winning squad, endured numerous blows that precipitated everlasting mind harm and led to cocaine and alcohol abuse that finally killed him at age 49, his legal professionals stated in closing arguments. His widow, Alana Gee, was within the courtroom Monday.

In the primary case of its variety to go to a jurythe attorneys instructed Los Angeles Superior Court jurors that the NCAA, the governing physique of school athletics within the US, had recognized concerning the results of head trauma in sports activities for the reason that Nineteen Thirties however failed for a long time to inform gamers of the dangers or put guidelines in place to guard gamers.

“You can not convey Matt again however you may say what the NCAA did to him was unsuitable,” lawyer Bill Horton stated. “Put this on the NCAA’s radar. … This is the one means they may ever hear.”

A lawyer for the NCAA stated Gee skilled a sudden cardiac death introduced on by long-standing hypertension and acute cocaine toxicity. He mentioned a raft of Gee’s different critical well being issues, which he stated weren’t associated to football.

“The NCAA had nothing to do with the issues that tragically took Mr. Gee’s life,” lawyer Will Stute stated.

The problem of concussions in sports activities, and football particularly, has been entrance and heart lately as analysis has found extra about long-term results of repeated head trauma in issues ranging from complications to despair and, generally, early onset Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s illness.

The monthlong trial is one in every of a whole bunch of wrongful death and private harm lawsuits introduced by faculty football gamers in opposition to the NCAA previously decade.

But Gee’s is barely the second case to go to trial with allegations that hits to the pinnacle led to power traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative mind illness. A 2018 case in Texas settled just a few days into the trial.

Gee was one in every of 5 linebackers on the 1989 Trojans squad who died earlier than turning 50. 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.

CTE is related to reminiscence loss, despair and progressive dementia. It can solely be identified after death.

Boston University has discovered CTE within the brains of 110 of 111 deceased former NFL gamers and 48 of 53 former faculty gamers, in response to a research within the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Hall of Famers identified after death embrace Ken Stabler and Mike Webster.

In his senior 12 months, Gee was crew captain and led USC in tackles, compelled fumbles and fumble recoveries.

Gee married Alana, his faculty sweetheart, after graduating in 1992, and so they lived a standard life for 20 years. They raised three kids as he ran a profitable insurance coverage firm in Southern California.

But issues took a flip round 2013, when he started to lose management of his feelings, in response to the lawsuit. He grew to become indignant, confused and depressed. He drank closely. He instructed a physician he forgot whole days.

Attorneys for Gee stated that CTE, which is present in athletes and navy veterans who suffered repetitive mind accidents, was an oblique reason behind death as a result of head trauma has been proven to advertise substance abuse.

Stute stated the wrongful death case was about what precipitated Gee’s death and never whether or not CTE exists, which he stated continues to be a speculation.

After years of denials, the NFL acknowledged in 2016 that BU’s analysis confirmed a hyperlink between football and CTE. The league agreed to settle head harm circumstances masking 20,000 retired gamers offering as much as $4 million for a death involving CTE. It’s anticipated to exceed $1.4 billion in payouts over 65 years for six qualifying circumstances.

In 2016, the NCAA agreed to settle a class-action concussion lawsuit, paying $70 million to watch former faculty athletes’ medical circumstances, $5 million towards medical analysis, and funds of as much as $5,000 towards particular person gamers claiming accidents.

Gee by no means reported having a concussion and he stated in an utility to play with the Raiders after graduating that he had by no means been knocked unconscious, Stute stated.

He stated the NCAA was being positioned able of getting to defend itself from allegations it was unaware of on the time, noting that CTE had not been found till 2005. He stated nothing the NCAA might have executed would have stored Gee alive at present.

“You cannot maintain the NCAA accountable for one thing 40 years later that no person ever reported,” Stute stated. “The plaintiffs need you in a time journey machine. We do not have one… on the NCAA. It’s not truthful.”

A former NFL official who reviewed all accessible tapes of Gee’s USC video games stated he was tackled in a secure method with out utilizing his head, and there have been no indicators of head accidents, Stute stated.

Horton countered that on the time Gee performed, the NCAA did not share what it knew about medical dangers of repetitive head accidents, did not stop gamers from returning to the sector after accidents, and did not restrict the variety of practices regardless of suggestions to take action, Horton stated.

As he confirmed pictures of Gee at his wedding ceremony and holding his younger daughter in a pink tutu, Horton choked up, noting that Tuesday would have been Gee’s birthday.

“Deliver a verdict … so he did not die for nothing,” Horton stated. “So each 18-year-old child who performs football will know the hazards of the sport they’re taking part in.”

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