Saints named in Paul Oliver wrongful death lawsuit


The widow and sons of former San Diego Chargers defensive back Paul Oliver have sued the National Football League for wrongful death, blaming sports-related concussions for his suicide last year.

The suit was filled Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the league, naming also the Chargers, the New Orleans Saints and the corporations that own several helmet manufacturers. It also alleges fraud and negligence.

The suit states that Oliver, 29, shot himself in front of his wife, Chelsea, and the couples two sons last September at his home in Marietta, Georgia.

“Football players and their families looked to the NFL for guidance on player safety… the NFL has promoted the game’s violence if not expressly monetized it.” – Chelsea Oliver

It alleges that his death was a “direct result of the injuries, depression and emotional suffering caused by repetitive head trauma and concussions suffered as a result of playing football, not properly appreciating the risks with respects to head trauma” and defective helmets.

The NFL ignored, minimized and disputed the long-term health risks players were exposed to because of repeated head collisions, Chelsea Oliver said the complaint. She seeks unspecified damages for herself and her sons.

Oliver’s widow contends in the lawsuit that the NFL and others have known for decades the risks associated with such injuries but continue to conceal the information, leaving Oliver ignorant of the risks of play when making decisions about his football career “from his first snap of youth football to his tragic death.”

Chelsea explains in the lawsuit that Oliver suffered “mood, memory and anger issues” as a result of repetitive head trauma, and that after his death a pathologist confirmed he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is a progressive degenerative brain disease found in athletes and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma, according to the CTE center at Boston University’s medical school.

The suit claims the NFL encourages league players to disregard the results of violent head impacts and glorifies the “brutality and ferocity” of the game to increase ticket sales and audiences as part of some “sick” marketing strategy.

The Saints refused to comment on the lawsuit, and the NFL and the Chargers remained silent until late into Tuesday night.

The NFL has proposed a $756 million settlement of a different concussion-injury lawsuit that could affect thousands of athletes.

Earlier this month, in a report prepared for the federal judge handling the class-action case in Philadelphia, the NFL released actuarial data estimating that nearly three in 10 former players will develop debilitating brain conditions, and that they will be stricken earlier and at least twice as often as the general population.

About 5,000 players have sued the league alleging it didn’t disclose the risks they faced from repeated traumatic head impacts.

More than a dozen players or their relatives have objected to the settlement, saying it fails to address wrongful-death claims and provides no benefit for players suffering from early effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a potentially fatal brain disease.

“Football players and their families, including Paul Oliver and his family, looked to the NFL for guidance on player safety issues,” Chelsea Oliver said in the complaint. “Although the NFL voluntarily assumed its role with respect to football-player safety at all levels, the NFL has promoted the game’s violence if not expressly monetized it.”