Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

Former 'Overmedicated' Football Players Lost Chance to Sue NFL

There are many considerations to take into account when deciding whether or not to sue someone. But, one of the most important considerations is the deadline -- called "statute of limitations" -- for filing such a lawsuit. Just ask the NFL players who had their lawsuit dismissed because it was past the deadline for filing such a suit.

Overview of Statutes of Limitations

Statutes of limitations are in place to balance the need for justice with the need to ensure a fair trial for all parties involved. The time limits to file a lawsuit depend on the cause of action and the federal or state laws that the cause of action is based on. Generally speaking, the statute of limitations for civil cases are shorter than those for criminal cases. In fact, there are certain serious crimes -- such as murder -- that don't have statutes of limitations for filing charges.

The Reasons for the Ninth Circuit's Decision

The former NFL players sued the NFL alleging that they had been overmedicated and pressured to play in games despite having injuries that hadn't healed. These actions by the NFL, according to the players, led to their careers ending early. Unfortunately for the players, they didn't file their lawsuit within the required statute of limitations, according to the Ninth Circuit. Their claims were based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which has a four-year statute of limitations.

The NFL career of the most recent plaintiff ended in 2004, which means that his RICO claim would have ended in 2008. The players, however, had amended their complaint in 2016 to include a RICO claim of a "return-to-play" scheme. The Ninth Circuit also stated in their decision that "the possibility that plaintiffs may have discovered their allegedly diminished post-NFL business prospects after 2004 does not render plaintiffs' RICO claim timely."

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