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Evans v. Arizona Cardinals Football Club, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 1, 2016

ETOPIA EVANS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ARIZONA CARDINALS FOOTBALL CLUB, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         This putative class action against thirty-two member clubs of the National Football League follows an earlier lawsuit against the NFL also challenging administration of painkiller drugs. The defendant clubs now move to dismiss, arguing the claims against them are preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act and barred by the statute of limitations. To the extent stated herein, however, the claims against the clubs are not preempted under Section 301 and are not barred by the statute of limitations. The motion to dismiss is therefore Denied.

         STATEMENT

         Plaintiffs include the estate of a former NFL player and twelve retired players. The named plaintiffs, as a group, have played for every club in the NFL from 1964 to 2010. Defendants are the thirty-two member clubs of the NFL (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 8, 14-39).

         The following well-pled facts are assumed to be true for purposes of the present motion. Starting in the 1960s, the clubs' doctors and trainers provided players with painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and sleep aids in an effort to quickly return players to the game, rather than allow them to rest and heal properly from serious, football-related injuries. The clubs maintained the "return-to-play" culture by concealing the health risks associated with taking such medications from the players. Club doctors and trainers often failed to disclose adequate or accurate information about side effects or long-term health consequences of the medications. When asked about side effects of medications, club doctors and trainers responded, "none, " "don't worry about them, " "not much, " "they are good for you, " or, in the case of injections, "maybe some bruising." These answers misrepresented the actual health dangers posed by these drugs (id. at ¶¶ 5-7, 102, 106).

         Club doctors and trainers further provided medications without a prescription and without properly documenting administration of the medications. At times, club doctors and trainers provided medications without informing players of the names of the medications (id. at 111). Player Jerry Wunsch remembers that on flights home from football games, club trainers would "walk up and down the aisles of the plane, handing out anti-inflammatories and pain killers to anyone who needed them, no questions asked" (id. at ¶ 211). Player Steven Lofton remembers that (id. at ¶ 217):

Trainers would simply hand him pills and tell him that he needed to take them. The doctors who injected him never said the name of the drug he was being given. Mr. Lofton does remember that the drugs were being given out like M and M's, the candy. On the plane home from away games, a doctor would walk down the aisle, take pills from zip-lock bags and hand them to the players. Mr. Lofton remembers those flights as being strangely quiet as 53 players were numbed to sleep by the power of the drugs. He was never told by anyone of the side effects of the drugs.

         These club distribution practices allegedly violated the Controlled Substances Act and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (id. at ¶¶ 125, 148, 161).

         Plaintiffs suffer from internal organ injuries and muscular/skeletal injuries incurred while playing in the NFL and exacerbated by medications the clubs administered to keep players on the field (id. at ¶ 13). Some of the plaintiffs suffered latent injuries discovered as recently as 2014 (id. at ¶¶ 201, 227).

         Plaintiffs filed the instant action against the clubs on May 21, 2015, in the United States District Court of Maryland alleging claims for intentional misrepresentation and "civil conspiracy." The clubs moved to dismiss, arguing the claims are preempted by Section 301 and barred by the statute of limitations. The clubs also moved to transfer the action to the Northern District of California. Judge William Nickerson of the District Court in Maryland granted the transfer. Evans v. Arizona Cardinals Football Club, LLC, No. CV WMN-15-1457, 2016 WL 759208, at *4 (D. Md. Feb. 25, 2016). This order follows full briefing, including supplemental briefing, and oral argument.

         ANALYSIS

         1. Judicial Notice.

         The clubs seek judicial notice of the various collective-bargaining agreements (CBAs) appended as exhibits to their motion to dismiss (Curran Exhs. 1-13). Plaintiffs cite to these CBAs in the complaint (Compl. ¶¶ 73-79) and do not object to judicial notice of them. Accordingly, the clubs' requests for judicial notice of Curran Exhibits 1-13 are Granted. Because this order ...


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