FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A group of retired NFL players filed a civil lawsuit at the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Monday.
The purpose of the suit is to require the NFL to recognize living CTE as an occupational hazard.
If the league recognizes the disease as an occupational hazard, former players can file workers’ compensation claims against the NFL.
Retired NFL Players Tony Gaiter, Tracy Scroggins, Sedrick Irvin, Daryl Ashmore, Henri Crockett, Kelvin Harris, Lawrence Jones, Shevin Smith, Santonio Thomas and Warren Williams were on hand representing the 142 former players who are filing the complaint.
The complaint reads, in part:
“Scientific verification of CTE in living subjects is currently available, and is no different from ALS diagnosis probabilities. Essentially, living-CTE has now become clinically diagnosable to the same extent that living-ALS has become recognized as being clinically diagnosable. In so being, this action seeks declaratory relief for living NFL players, as Plaintiffs, who are seeking workers’ compensation benefits from Defendants-employers for, but not limited to, being unduly exposed to and sustaining repeated head trauma and the subsequent fatal degenerative brain disorder that manifests as a latent onset diagnoses of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (“CTE”); injuries which occurred (1) in the course of, and (2) have arisen out of Plaintiffs’ employment with the NFL.”
Gaiter played several seasons in the NFL, mostly as a punt and kick returner.
A couple of years ago he was diagnosed with brain damage.
“Two to three years after football, friends and family started noticing I was forgetting stuff,” he said. “I would go to the grocery store and my mom had to write me a list or wouldn’t come back with the right things.”
Gaiter was homeless for a while and struggles with day-to-day life.
Gaiter’s attorneys say the NFL has fought paying worker’s comp benefits to former players, saying there was no way to test for CTE until a person died.
But Tim Howard, an attorney and doctor, says that’s changed.
“The science in the past 24 months has expanded so rapidly that we can currently diagnose living CTE in NFL players,” Howard said.
Howard says this lawsuit has the potential to impact all living former players – thousands of people.
He says it’s up to the NFL to do the right thing.
“Do they do the right thing or do they fight? Historically, they’ve fought justice. Let’s see if they want to support justice for players like Mr. Gaiter now,” Howard said.
Gaiter believes the NFL abandoned its former players.
“I think they just live for the moment and when it’s over with, they don’t care about the past. So, it’s sad,” he said.
He says he and his fellow former players fear what the future holds.
“We have doubt. We worry. We don’t know what’s next,” he said. “Are we gonna go crazy? Run off the road? I don’t know what to expect.”
The complaint was filed against the NFL and league teams, which includes the Miami Dolphins.
Howard says the $1 billion settlement will pay nothing to current and former NFL players who die from CTE after July 2014.
Howard says he is appealing that settlement to the U.S. Supreme Court.
CBS4 reached out to the NFL Monday afternoon for comment. The league has not returned the call.