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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

New Concussion Class Action Includes a Focus on Medical Advisor Conflicts of Interest

As we move further and further into an age of massive information sharing, it is logical that "sponsored research" remains a focal point in litigation over alleged or actual physical injuries and disease processes that evolve over time. More specifically, the pressures are growing as to medical advisors and disclosures involved in researching and communicating scientific information related to evolving disease processes and injuries. The pressures include assertions that information must be fully disclosed and should be evaluated by medical advisors who are leading experts in the area, and do not labor under conflicts of interest, whether "real" or "perceived."

The most recent example I’ve seen arises in a new class action involving NFL players and concussions. The lawsuit is now pending in Philadelphia, and was filed filed by the Locks Law Firm, a significant national plaintiff’s firm. The online press release also is pasted below. Note especially that the description chosen by plaintiff’s counsel includes a focus on "sponsored research" and alleged conflicts of interest effecting medical professionals.

PHILADELPHIA, Jan 19, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Locks Law Firm attorneys Gene Locks, Michael Leh, and David Langfitt filed a class action lawsuit yesterday in Philadelphia against the NFL on behalf of all former NFL players, including seven named players and four spouses, all of whom are the class representatives. The named players include former Philadelphia Eagles Ron Solt, Joe Panos, and Rich Miano. The suit charges that the NFL and other defendants intentionally and fraudulently misrepresented and/or concealed medical evidence about the short- and long-term risks regarding repetitive traumatic brain injury and concussions and failed to warn players that they risked permanent brain damage if they returned to play too soon after sustaining a concussion.

Ron Solt, age 50, was an all-star guard for the Eagles from 1988 to 1991 and also played for the Indianapolis Colts, playing 10 seasons in all from 1984 to 1993. He suffered at least one concussion during an NFL game while with the Eagles, as well as multiple head traumas and concussions during practice that were never medically diagnosed. He now suffers from substantial memory loss and persistent ringing in his ears.

Joe Panos, age 41, played as an offensive lineman in the NFL from 1994 to 2000 and was with the Eagles from 1994 to 1997. He sustained concussions while with the Eagles and Buffalo Bills. He currently experiences headaches, memory loss, irritability, rage, mood swings, and, sleeplessness.

Rich Miano, age 49, played as a defensive back for 10 seasons in the NFL between 1985 and 1995 and was with the Eagles from 1991 to 1994. He is now associate head coach of the University of Hawaii football team. He sustained at least one concussion while playing but is currently asymptomatic.

Gennaro DiNapoli, age 36, was an NFL center and guard from 1998 to 2004 who sustained repeated head impacts during his NFL career. He suffers from severe depression, memory loss, headaches, anxiety and mood swings.

Adam Haayer, age 34, was an offensive lineman from 2001 to 2006 for four teams. He had at least four concussions or concussion-like symptoms and deals with memory loss, depression, and anxiety.

Daniel Buenning, age 30, played as an offensive lineman in the NFL for four seasons from 2005 to 2008. He suffers from substantial memory loss, depression, trouble with concentration, short attention span, and mood swings.

Craig Heimburger, age 34, played on the offensive line for four teams between 1999 and 2002. He sustained multiple head impacts and concussions and suffers from dizziness, memory loss, and intense headaches.

Also named in the complaints were the wives of several players including Lori Miano, Summer Haayer, Ashley Buenning, and Dawn Heimburger.

"This action is necessary because the NFL knew about the debilitating and permanent effects of head injuries and concussions that regularly occur among professional players, yet ignored and actively concealed the risks," according to Locks.

The suit from Locks Law attorneys Gene Locks, Michael Leh and David Langfitt charges that the NFL voluntarily joined the scientific research as well as public and private discussions regarding the relationship between concussions and brain impairment when it created the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) Committee in 1994. Rather than naming a noted neurologist to chair this committee, it appointed Dr. Elliott Pellman, a rheumatologist who was a paid physician and trainer for the New York Jets, a conflict of interest, and had training in the treatment of joints and muscles, not head injuries. While the committee was established with the stated purpose of researching and lessening the impact of concussions on NFL players, it failed to inform them of the true risks associated with head trauma.

"Although athletes who suffered brain trauma in other professional sports were restricted from playing full games or even seasons, NFL players with similar head injuries were regularly returned to play with devastating consequences," according to Locks.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. It seeks medical monitoring, compensation, and financial recovery for the short-term, long-term, and chronic injuries, financial and intangible losses, and expenses for the individual former and present NFL players and their spouses.

Locks Law Firm ( ) also plans to file additional suits on behalf of other NFL players in the upcoming weeks.

About Locks Law Firm:

With a litigation team of 23 personal injury attorneys and nearly 100 outstanding legal professionals and auxiliary staff members, Locks Law Firm serves plaintiffs and is dedicated to victims of corporate neglect and malfeasance. The firm, with offices in Philadelphia, New York, Cherry Hill, NJ, and Englewood Cliffs, NJ, is known for groundbreaking verdicts and settlements in mesothelioma, asbestos, pharmaceutical, mass tort, personal injury, and product liability cases. For more information, please visit

SOURCE: Locks Law Firm

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