May 12, 2013- The Chicago law firm of Corboy & Demetrio has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the National Hockey League, accusing it of negligently causing the death of Derek Boogaard by supplying him with excessive amounts of painkillers during his career as an “Enforcer” and failing in its attempt to curb and cure his resulting addiction.
Boogaard died of an accidental prescription drug overdose on May 13, 2011 in Minneapolis, after a battle with addiction to painkillers prescribed by a team of NHL doctors. A post-mortem examination revealed Boogaard suffered from CTE, a progressive brain disease caused by head trauma, according to the lawsuit. Boogaard was drafted in 2001 by the Minnesota Wild as an “Enforcer,” a player that engages in fist fights with players from the opposing team during games. He played for the New York Rangers at the time of his death.
Corboy & Demetrio lawyer Thomas A. Demetrio, who along with William T. Gibbs, is representing the Estate of Boogaard, said, “This League needs to adapt and change so that a preventable tragedy like this never happens again.” Demetrio added, “This lawsuit will unearth the failed policies that have led to the demise of so many NHL Fighters and bring to light the need for meaningful change in the NHL so that families, like the Boogaards, can rest easier knowing that their loved ones are safe.”
According to the lawsuit, Boogaard played in 277 regular season games and participated in at least 66 on-ice fights. In the 2008-2009 season, Boogaard was given 1021 pills by NHL team doctors and dentists, the lawsuit alleges. And in a two-week period, Boogaard was given 150 pills of Oxycodone. Following that, Boogaard took up to ten pills of Oxycodone a day, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Cook County Circuit Court.
“The NHL drafted Derek Boogaard because it wanted his massive body to fight in order to enhance ratings, earnings and exposure. Fighting night after night took its expected toll on Derek’s body and mind,” Gibbs said. “To deal with the pain, he turned to the team doctors, who dispensed pain pills like candy. Then, once he became addicted to these narcotics, the NHL promised his family that it would take care of him. It failed. He died. Today, his family seeks justice for the NHL’s egregious failures,” Gibbs added.
The lawsuit claims that the NHL knew or should have known that league players with brain damage are more susceptible to drug addiction, and specifically, that “Enforcers/Fighters in the NHL had an increased risk of developing addiction to prescription medications.”
Demetrio and Gibbs also represent the family of Chicago Bears great Dave Duerson and other NFL players in lawsuits against the league stemming from concussions and CTE.
Derek Boogaard’s parents, Len and Joanne Boogaard, filed the lawsuit on behalf of their son’s estate.
“It is my hope that this suit will bring more awareness to what really happened to our son, to see the so very wrong handling of drugs that he was given by the people that we entrusted our son to,” Joanne Boogaard said. “He was there protecting his teammates at all costs, but who was there to protect him?” she added.
Case Info: #13L3945 in Cook County Circuit Court; Len Boogaard and Joanne Boogaard, Co-Executors of the Estate of Derek Boogaard, Deceased, v. National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players Association