Articles Posted in Concussions

These consolidated appeals arise from an important issue facing professional athletics and contemporary culture as a whole. Former professional football players are developing significant neurological disorders after sustaining repeated concussions while playing football. Evolving scientific and medical research has uncovered a link between repeated blows to the head and developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and other neurological impairments.

The plaintiffs in these cases are former professional football players who have sustained numerous concussions and are suffering the attendant neurological impairments. They have already sued the National Football League in a federal class action case and have entered into a settlement with the NFL to address their grievances. The same former players, however, now seek relief from the defendants — the manufacturers and designers of the helmets they wore while playing football.  These plaintiffs alleged that the helmet manufacturers have long known about the dangers and the harmful effects of repeated concussive and sub-concussive traumas, but they never warned the users of their helmets about the dangers; instead, they represented that their helmets were protecting these players.

The defendant-helmet manufacturers moved to dismiss these cases on the ground that the cases are barred by the two-year statute of limitations covering personal injury actions in Illinois. In response, the plaintiffs argued that the cases were not time barred because the lawsuits were filed within two years of the players learning about the injuries for which they seek relief. The trial court found that, because the players had already sued the NFL more than two years before filing these cases, the players knew about their injuries and, therefore, could have sued the helmet manufacturers at the same time – more than two years before filing these lawsuits. Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their claims. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the plaintiffs’ claims were indeed untimely and upheld the dismissal.

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Mildred Thomas was shopping at the CVS drugstore and asked the clerk to check the price of a chair that was stacked with other chairs in a metal bin on a 6-foot shelf. As the clerk reached up and moved the chair to look for the price, multiple chairs and the bin itself fell from the shelf. One of the chairs hit Thomas on the head.

Thomas, 58, was taken to a hospital emergency room complaining of soreness to her head. Later radiology imaging showed no abnormalities, but she did develop severe headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, and memory issues.

A neurologist later diagnosed a head injury. When Thomas’ severe headaches persisted, she was treated with pain injections and other cognitive therapies.

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Kacey Strough was 16 years old when he joined his high school football team. Apparently as a prank, his teammates threw footballs at his head while he was sitting on the sideline during a practice. He later went to the school nurse complaining of a headache and double vision. Kacey told the nurse that he had been hit on the head with a football and was concerned that he might have a concussion. The nurse allegedly attempted to call his grandmother with whom Kacey was living, but she was unable to reach her.


Kacey continued participating in team practices over the next two weeks.  He also returned to the nurse with continued complaints of headaches and vision difficulties. The school nurse called Kacey’s grandmother, but allegedly discussed only Kacey’s diagnosis of pink eye; she said nothing about his headaches or vision issues.


Several days later, while Kacey was home, he complained to his grandmother of headaches, neck pain and problems with vision and balance. Kacey’s grandmother took him to a hospital emergency room where an imaging revealed a mass in his head.

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The plaintiff Michael Hawkins signed a release when he purchased a gym membership from X-Sport Fitness, which is owned by Capital Fitness Inc. The release document did not expressly cover the unusual hazard of falling mirrors, which occurred at the Chicago facility when a 3-foot by 8-foot mirror fell from a wall protrusion and struck Hawkins on the head while he was performing arm curls at X-Sport’s Logan Square facility. It was alleged that the mirror fell on Hawkins because X-Sport’s employees chose not to properly secure it.

The release document that was signed by Hawkins stated in all capital letters that Hawkins accepted “all risks of injury from using the gym’s equipment and facility”; agreed to hold the company and its affiliates harmless from any injury caused by negligent acts and omissions “arising out of or in any way related to the member’s presence and/or use of the facility”; and released all claims for personal injury that might be caused by improper maintenance of any “exercise equipment or facilities.”

On the basis of that release and its language, the trial judge granted Capital Fitness’s motion for summary judgment in its favor. The Illinois Appellate Court reversed stating that “Because an exculpatory clause is strictly construed against the party it benefits, the clause must identify the range of dangers for which risk of injury is being assumed.” The court added, “We are unable to hold, as a matter of law, that a falling mirror is a danger within the scope of the exculpatory clause.”

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Pengxuan Diao rented a converted garage. An employee of Southern California Gas Co. arrived while Diao was sleeping to perform maintenance. The gas company employee opened a gas valve that activated an uncapped gas line running to the garage where Diao was sleeping. The Southern California Gas Co. employee left the property without ensuring that the line was free of leaks.

A leak in the gas line caused gas to accumulate in the garage. Two hours after the leak began, Diao awoke and lit a cigarette, which triggered the gas explosion.

Diao, age 24, suffered second and third-degree burns over more than 20% of his body, including his head, torso, arms and right leg. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury from lack of oxygen, the concussive force of the explosion and from the carbon monoxide poisoning.

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A lawsuit was filed against the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo, on land owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve District. The case was filed by Kristine O’Toole for injuries that she suffered when she fell because of an alleged defect in the pavement.

The defendant, the Chicago Zoological Society, which is a not-for-profit corporation, moved to dismiss the lawsuit under the Illinois Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, which includes a shortened statute of limitations — that being one-year rather than two years for the usual tort claim. The shortened one-year deadline applies to “any not-for-profit corporation organized for the purpose of conducting public business.”

The Cook County judge granted the motion dismissing O’Toole’s case because she had not filed the lawsuit within the one-year statute of limitations from the date of her injury that the judge decided applied. She took an appeal claiming that the defendant did not qualify as a “local public entity” that would impose the one-year statute.

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Allen Ginn, the owner of a trucking company, drove his truck to a sawmill to unload the logs he was hauling. When he reached his designated unloading area, the mill employees instructed him to release the tie-down straps on his load. As he did that, a log fell onto him striking him directly on the head and back.

Ginn was 49 years old at the time and suffered a subdural hematoma, a subarachnoid hemorrhage and skull fractures. He also had spinal fractures at L1-3 and fractures to his right hip and the right side of his pelvis. He was in a coma for several days. He later went through a regimen of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

As a result of this incident, Ginn has suffered a brain injury, occasional seizures, memory loss and chronic fatigue. He will likely require supervision and assistance with daily living activities well into the future.

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On July 17, 2009, Kristen Henson was driving in the left lane of northbound Illinois Interstate 94 in West Deerfield Township when a car driven by the defendant, Steven Teeters, rear-ended her car.  Henson, 35, was a retail purchaser. She alleged in her lawsuit that the crash caused headaches and soft tissue injuries to her neck, lower back, tailbone and pelvic area injuries. 

The headaches and neck injury healed shortly after the crash, but Henson claimed that the low back, tailbone and pelvic injuries were permanent and continued to cause pain and limitations in her daily activities.

The defendant, Steven Teeters, admitted that before the collision his eyes were closed briefly and therefore he did not notice that Henson’s car was moving slowly or slowing down.  Teeters said that because he had his eyes closed he didn’t react fast enough to avoid the impact. Teeters admitted fault, but contested the nature, extent, duration and causation of Henson’s injuries.

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A Cook County jury signed a verdict of $38,681 related to an Aug. 13, 2010 rear-end car crash.  The plaintiff, Christina Pervomskaya, was stopped in a line of traffic on Waukegan Road in Glenview, Ill., when she was rear-ended by Sally Langan’s motor vehicle. 

Pervomskaya, 28, suffered a concussion, post-concussion syndrome, headaches and neck, back and shoulder strains. She worked as a dental hygienist and missed 4 days of work because of this incident.  The defendant, Langan, denied that Pervomskaya was injured to the extent that she claimed and that some of her medical care was not necessary.

Before trial, the demand to settle the case made by Pervomskaya’s counsel was $40,000.  The attorney asked the jury to return a verdict of $80,000.  The offer made by the defendant before trial was $45,000.

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The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 3.9 million sports-related and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year. Most of the reported sports-related concussions occur in high school football. Continuing to play a sport with a concussion or symptoms of a head injury makes the young athlete extremely vulnerable to much more serious injury and even death.

Too often, athletes whose competitive spirit drives them to continue participating even after what amounts to a concussion, return to playing. If in fact the athlete has suffered a concussion, returning to play increases the risks of serious injury or death many times. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 7.6 million students participated in high school sports in 2009-2010.  Of those, 1.1 million were playing football.  Those participants in football had nearly twice as many athletes participating as the second most popular sport, track and field. Softball ranked third with 540,000 student-athletes nationwide.

Concussions are common in sports. The student athlete and coach may not understand the consequences resulting from concussions sustained during sports play.It has been estimated that 300,000 sport-related concussions occur in the United States yearly. Forty-one percent of the concussions sustained by athletes occurred while playing football, while 22 percent resulted from girls’ soccer. Incidents of concussions are on the rise. Because of that obvious statistic, Illinois has enacted regulations emphasizing the dangers of concussions and the ramifications of non-treatment. 

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