NCAA Football

Widow seeks $55 million from NCAA over death of former LB Matthew Gee

Widow seeks $55 million from NCAA over death of former LB Matthew Gee

LOS ANGELES – Attorneys on Monday asked a jury to award $55 million to the widow of a former USC football player in a landmark case alleging the NCAA failed to protect him from repeated head injuries that led to his death.

Matthew Gee, a hard-hitting linebacker on the 1990 Rose Bowl-winning team, suffered countless hits that caused permanent brain damage and led to cocaine and alcohol abuse that eventually killed him at the age of 49, his lawyers said in closing arguments. arguments.

In the first case of its kind to go to a jury trial, Gee’s lawyers told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury that the NCAA, the governing body of U.S. college athletics, had known about the effects of traumatic brain injuries in sports since the 1930s, but could not. for decades to inform players of the risks or introduce rules to protect players. His widow, Allana Gee, was in the courtroom Monday.

“You can’t bring Matt back, but you can say what the NCAA did to him was wrong,” said attorney Bill Horton. “Put it on the NCAA’s radar. … That’s the only way they’re ever going to listen.”

A lawyer for the NCAA said Gee suffered sudden cardiac death caused by long-term hypertension and acute cocaine poisoning, and that he had a number of other serious health problems.

“The NCAA has nothing to do with what tragically took Mr. Gee’s life,” attorney Will Statu said.

The issue of concussions in sports, and football in particular, has been in the spotlight in recent years as research has revealed the longer-term effects of repeated head injuries in problems ranging from headaches to depression and, sometimes, early-onset Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease disease.

The month-long lawsuit is one of hundreds of wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits filed by college football players against the NCAA over the past decade.

But Gee is only the second case to go to trial alleging that blows to the head led to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease. The 2018 Texas case ended days after the trial began and well before it could have gone to a jury trial.

Gee was one of five linebackers on the 1989 Trojans team to die before reaching the age of 50. As with teammate and NFL star Junior Seau, who took his own life in 2012, Gee’s brain was examined postmortem at the Boston University Center for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and found to have CTE.

CTE is associated with memory loss, depression, and progressive dementia. It can only be diagnosed after death.

Boston University found CTE in the brains of 110 of 111 deceased former NFL players and 48 of 53 former college players, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Hall of Famers diagnosed posthumously include Ken Stabler and Mike Webster.

During his senior year, Gee was a team captain and led USC in tackles, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.

Gee married Alana, his college sweetheart, after graduation in 1992, and they lived a normal life for 20 years. They raised three children as he ran a successful insurance company in Southern California.

But things took a turn for the worse around 2013, when he began to lose control of his emotions, the lawsuit says. He became angry, confused and depressed. He drank heavily. He told the doctor that days would pass without him being able to remember what had happened.

Gee’s attorneys said CTE, which is found in athletes and military veterans who suffer repeated traumatic brain injuries, is an indirect cause of death because head trauma has been shown to contribute to substance abuse.

“It’s rare that you find CTE on a death certificate,” said attorney Justin Schrader.

Stute said the wrongful-death case was about what caused Gee’s death, not whether CTE existed. NCAA experts said CTE is still a hypothesis.

After years of denials, the NFL acknowledged in 2016 that the BU study showed a connection to football. The league has agreed to settle head injury lawsuits involving 20,000 retired players for up to $4 million in CTE-related deaths. Payouts at age 65 are expected to exceed $1.4 billion if the six qualifying conditions are met.

In 2016, the NCAA agreed to settle a class-action concussion lawsuit, paying $70 million to monitor the health of former college athletes, $5 million for medical research and pay up to $5,000 to individual players who claim injuries.

Gee never disclosed that he had a concussion, and he said in an application to play with the Raiders after graduation that he never passed out, Stute said. He said the NCAA found itself in a position to defend itself against allegations it didn’t know about at the time, noting that CTE wasn’t discovered until 2005. He said nothing the NCAA could have done would have kept Gee alive today.

“You can’t hold the NCAA responsible for something that happened 40 years later that no one ever reported,” Stute said. – The plaintiffs want you in the time machine. We don’t have that in the NCAA. It’s not fair.”

A former NFL official who reviewed all available tapes of Gee’s games at USC said he was tackled safely without the use of the head and there were no signs of head trauma, Stout said.

Horton countered that while Gee was playing, the NCAA didn’t share what it knew about the medical risks of repeated head injuries, didn’t prevent players from returning to the field after injuries and didn’t limit the number of practices, despite recommendations to do so, he said Horton.

Showing photos of Gee at her wedding and holding her baby daughter in a pink tutu, Horton got choked up noting that it was Gee’s birthday on Tuesday.

“Get a verdict … so he doesn’t die in vain,” Horton said. “So every 18-year-old playing football will know the dangers of the game they are playing.”

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