Derek Boogaard's family files suit against NHL

Bruce Bennett

The family of Derek Boogaard has filed suit against the NHL and contends the league is responsible for the physical trauma and brain damage their son experienced.

The family of former-NHL forward Derek Boogaard has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the National Hockey League, according to a report by the New York Times on Sunday night.

Boogaard was found dead of an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers and alcohol on May 13, 2011. In the suit, Boogaard's family states the league is responsible for the physical trauma and brain damage their son faced during his six-year career in the league.

Boogaard specialized as an "enforcer," which meant he was expected to be a physical component in games. This also required him to engage in fights. Over the course of 277 regular season games, Boogaard participated in 61 such instances. He was posthumously found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a degenerative brain disease cause by repeated head trauma.

In addition, the suit contends that the league is responsible for the drug dependency Boogaard developed, via the New York Times:

"To distill this to one sentence," said William Gibbs, a lawyer for the Boogaards, "you take a young man, you subject him to trauma, you give him pills for that trauma, he becomes addicted to those pills, you promise to treat him for that addiction, and you fail."

The suit states that Boogaard was provided prescription pain medication, sleeping pills and pain killer injections by NHL medical staffs in order to handle injuries sustained during his playing days. In addition, the suit contends the NHL's substance abuse program failed to monitor his drug dependency despite several failed drug tests and an admission that he bought painkillers illegally.

One instance outlined in the New York Times' story states that Boogaard was prescribed 1,021 pills from a dozen doctors during the 2008-09 season. At the conclusion of the year, he was prescribed 150 oxycodone pills after operations on his nose and shoulder.

A previous lawsuit filed against the NHL Players' Association was dismissed this spring. The family contended that the NHLPA expressed an interest in pursuing a case against the league but failed to meet a deadline for filing a grievance. The judge ruled the family had waited to long to file action against the union and dismissed the case.

The Boogaard family is not seeking any specific damages other than a sum in excess of the minimal jurisdictional limit for each of the eight counts in the suit.

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