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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Next Wave: N.H.L. Players Sue League Over Head Injuries

Occupational illness claims have been a traditional battleground in workers' compensation for larger and more significant lawsuits and dynamic changes in the safety of the workplace induced by economics.

From the lack of the incorporation of occupational claims in the 1911 model workers' compensation acts, in the 1950's, employers and their insurance companies sought refuge under the "exclusivity bar" of the. workers' compensation act to shield themselves from negligence actions for silicosis and asbestosis claims.

The creativity of claimant's lawyers, and the blatant intentional tort acts of unscrupulous asbestos companies, brought forth a sweeping change in the economic balance as claimants used the civil justice system to establish an avenue for adequate compensation for asbestos victims (lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma claims).

Asbestos litigation, "longest running tort, continues today and is the perfect example of the societal benefits of a working civil justice system.  In fact, the same dynamic existed in: tobacco litigation, lead paint litigation, latex litigation and has been repeated many times over.

The civil justice system, not the workers' compensation system, established an economic incentive establishing a safer workplace for workers and their families.

It is more than obvious that contact sports are seeing the next wave of litigation as the employers and their insurance companies accelerate the cycle, by barring professional athletic players from even seeking workers' compensation benefits, ie. California.

Since it appears that no safe helmet can be manufactured to protect the mayhem of some contact sports, the business of sports will be the next "industry" to experience economic incentives to make the workplace safer. The higher education system will just have to find another economic engine to fund colleges and university and stop luring students to play dangerous sports in hope of winning the professional sports lottery.

First football, now hockey, are emerging targets of the civil justice system as the economics of safety takes hold and the need for safety takes hold. Today's post is shared from the

Ten former N.H.L. players sued the league Monday for negligence and fraud, saying the sport’s officials should have done more to address head injuries but instead celebrated a culture of speed and violence.

The players, who were in the league in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, filed their suit in federal court in Washington. One of the lead lawyers is Mel Owens, a former N.F.L. player who has represented scores of other retired players in workers’ compensation cases.
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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.