LOS ANGELES — The wife and sons of former San Diego Chargers defensive back Paul Oliver sued the NFL for wrongful death, blaming sports-related concussions for his suicide last year.
The suit was filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the league, the Chargers, the New Orleans Saints and the corporations that own several helmet manufacturers. It also alleges fraud and negligence.
It says that Oliver, 29, shot himself to death in front of his wife, Chelsea, and two sons last September at his home in Marietta, Georgia, about 20 miles northwest of Atlanta.
The suit alleges that his death was a “direct result of the injuries, depression and emotional suffering caused by repetitive head trauma and concussions suffered as a result of playing football, not properly appreciating football’s risks with respect to head trauma” and using defective helmets.
The suit claims that Oliver suffered “mood, memory and anger issues” associated with repetitive head trauma and that after his death, a pathologist confirmed that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
That is a progressive degenerative brain disease found in athletes and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma, according to the CTE Center at Boston University’s medical school.
The suit contends that the NFL and others knew for decades about risks associated with such injuries but concealed the information, leaving Oliver ignorant about the risks of play when making football decisions “from his first snap of youth football to his tragic death.”
It also claims the NFL encourages players to disregard the results of violent head impacts and glorifies the “brutality and ferocity” of football as a marketing strategy.
The Saints declined to comment. Messages left for representatives of the NFL and Chargers weren’t immediately returned after hours Tuesday night.
The NFL has proposed a $765 million settlement of a different concussion-injury lawsuit that could affect thousands of athletes.
Earlier this month, in a report prepared for the federal judge handling that class action case in Philadelphia, the NFL released actuarial data estimating that nearly three in 10 former players will develop debilitating brain conditions, and that they will be stricken earlier and at least twice as often as the general population.