KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Five former Kansas City Chiefs players who were on the team between 1987 and 1993 filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming the team hid and even lied about the risks of head injuries during that time period when there was no collective bargaining agreement in place in the NFL.
The lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court on behalf of former players Leonard Griffin, Chris Martin, Joe Phillips, Alexander Louis Cooper and Kevin Porter — all of whom played on defense — seeks more than $15,000 in actual and punitive damages. All five players have opted out of a multimillion-dollar settlement announced this summer that would compensate former players for their head injuries.
The Kansas City plaintiffs claim to be suffering from post-concussion syndrome and latent brain disease because of multiple concussions they sustained while playing for the Chiefs. They all claim also to be suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can only be definitively diagnosed by examining the brain after death.
Chiefs spokesman Ted Crews and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello both declined to comment on the suit.
Ken McClain, an Independence attorney, said the lawsuit is allowed in Missouri after a state workers’ compensation statute was amended in 2005 to exclude cases of occupational injury that occur over an extended time.
That exception more commonly applies in workplaces where smoking is allowed and workers suffer lung problems because of it. McClain also represented workers at a Jasper popcorn plant who were awarded millions of dollars in lawsuits claiming they got cancer because of a chemical in butter flavoring used at the plant.
The lawsuit says the Chiefs ignored decades of research indicating that concussions cause long-term brain damage, instead referring to the injuries as “getting your bell rung” or a “ding.” It accuses the team of lying to players in saying concussions are not serious injuries.