ST. PAUL, Minn. — The federal judge overseeing the NHL concussion case has denied class-action status for the former players suing the league over head injuries.
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued her 46-page order on Friday, the first significant victory for the league in a landmark lawsuit that was filed almost five years ago.
Nelson wrote that “widespread differences” in state laws about medical monitoring, which the retired players are seeking, would “present significant case management difficulties.”
The judge declined to certify either of the proposed classes by the ex-players. They sought to create one group of all living former NHL players and one group of all retired players diagnosed with a neurological disease, disorder or condition. Had they succeeded, more than 5,000 former players would have been allowed to join the case.
The last hearing on the class-action status was held in March in Nelson’s courtroom in St. Paul.
More than 100 former players have added their names to the case. The retirees have accused the NHL of failing to better prevent head trauma or warn players of such risks while promoting violent play that led to their injuries.
An attorney for the players, Charles Zimmerman, said Friday the judge’s ruling was procedural, and that the hundreds of players are prepared to try their cases individually. Zimmerman said it was too soon to know if there would be an appeal.
“The litigation continues. We will continue to litigate the players’ claims on a case-by-case basis, for all who have incurred injuries and damages,” he told ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. “Players with traumatic brain injuries need to file their claims and justice will prevail as we move forward.”
Nelson previously issued two significant rulings against the league. In 2015, she denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the sufficiency of the allegations. The following year, she rejected a motion to dismiss the case for labor law pre-emption, on the argument that the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and its players supersedes the court.
The NHL had no comment on Friday’s ruling.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.