Defense of Negligence
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The evaluation of the present criminal and civil situation in the country presents negligence as one of the most common reasons for contemporary lawsuits. Negligence implies socially dangerous actions that demand immediate adequate reaction and potentially may not only undermine the safety of given citizens but the national safety as well. According to the US Law, negligence is the failure to carry the duty of care which results in injury or loss to the person to whom this duty is owed (Glannon, 2010, p. 143). Negligence may be the subject of either civil or criminal liability depending on the defense argumentation. Frequently, negligence lawsuits are compound cases for the Supreme Court as the defense of negligence may use the doctrines that limit or even eliminate the liability (Beever, 2007, p. 28). The comprehension of the defense of negligence requires an analysis of an actual lawsuit. The tragic death of Junior Seau, the former linebacker of San Diego Chargers, has triggered a wrongful death lawsuit from the Seau's family members. In order to understand the case, it is necessary to identify the elements of negligence of the NFL (National Football League) and Riddell Incorporated and evaluate the potential negligence that the defendants could raise.
The afore-mentioned lawsuit claims Junior Seau's death from a self-inflicted gunshot to be the result of Seau's chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) initially developed due to the multiple hits to the head experienced by Seau during his playing days. According to Seau's ex-wife, his career in New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, and San Diego Chargers created the conditions under which Junior Seaus received repeated hits to the head and therefore accuses the NFL of "acts and omissions" dealing with the league's failure to evaluate the potential risks of such injuries for the players and their health (Sessler, 2013). As the NFL players use the protective helmets produced by Riddell Incorporated, the Seau's family is also suing the latter manufacturer of being negligent in the engineering, testing, marketing, assembly, manufacture, and design of the produced helmets. The wrongful death suit was filed in the California Supreme Court in San Diego and the prosecution is based on the fact that NFL deliberately ignored the fact that on-field head hits may result into severe brain injuries. The plaintiff of the case is Junior Seau's ex-wife representing his four children and a trustee of Seau's estate. The defendants of the lawsuits are the National Football League accused of wrongful death and helmet manufacturer Riddell Incorporated accused of producing dangerous and unsafe helmets. According to Junior Seau's ex-wife, all the head injuries obtained by Seau's provoked chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) resulting in the former player's irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia, and depression leading to the self-inflicted gunshot that stopped his life (Sessler, 2013). The plaintiff accuses the defendants of the failure to provide the player safety and ignoring the potential risks of the head hits for the players. At the same time, the Seau's family calls for the NFL's and Riddell's duty to make the game safer for the future generation football players.
To conduct an appropriate analysis of Junior Seau's family negligence lawsuit it is primarily necessary to identify the presence of the four elements of negligence in the case. The major four elements of negligence are duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages (Glannon, 2010, p. 145). The Tort Law refers to the duty as to the general duty of reasonable care implying the fact that NFL and Riddell Incorporated placed Junior Seau at the foreseeable risk of health and brain damage. Correspondingly, Junior Seau's family claims that it was NFL's legal duty to provide appropriate health care to the former player and therefore, to identify the potential risks of severe brain damage resulting from repeated hits to the player's head (Beever, 2007, p. 29). By-turn, Riddell's duty was to manufacture helmets able to prevent severe brain damage caused by the head hits of the national league football players and to evaluate the probable danger arising from the product. The breach of duty is generally referred to as a failure or refusal to perform assigned duties in a satisfactory manner. Breach of duty within the lawsuit is reflected through the foreseeable risk of harm of the Riddell helmets and NFL's unreasonable conduct in light of the foreseeable brain damage risks. Causation reflects the NFL's and Riddell's connection to the chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) of Junior Seau and his death as a consequence of the brain injuries, he suffered throughout his football career. According to the plaintiff, the defendants contributed substantially to the harm caused by the repeated head hits and ignored the potential risks of such injuries for the players. The plaintiff presents Junior Seau's chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and his consequential death as the major damage of the defendants' negligence. Seau's family claims that the NFL and Riddell Incorporated have directly and indirectly caused the brain damages of Junior Seau to the extent that led to the player's self-inflicted lethal gunshot. In other words, Junior Seau obtained brain injuries due to the negligent conduct of the defendants.
The negligence defense of the defendants should be primarily based on the notion that the plaintiff have failed to present at least one of the elements identifying negligence or in other words to negate one of the elements of the plaintiff's cause of action (Glannon, 2010, p. 148). Seau's family lawsuit is evidently poor in terms of the damage element of negligence, and it will obviously fail to provide legal evidence of how the defendants did not owe a duty to the plaintiff and therefore, caused the plaintiff's damages. It is common knowledge that any negligence defense can choose from two main doctrines of negligence defense: contributory and comparative negligence, and risk assumption (Beever, 2007, p. 30). The defense of negligence throughout the given lawsuit should be based on the doctrine of assumption of the risk due to the fact that Junior Seau was involved in an activity that assumes the risks associated with physical hits and injuries. The fact that the player continued his career for the period of twenty seasons obviously indicates that he possessed subjective knowledge of the risks involved in the activity. Another factor is that there were no precedents for the chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) diagnosed due to the football player's in-field head injuries and its potential risk of leading to suicide. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is to be presented as an unexpected factor related to the game process. The application of assumption of risks will defeat the claimed negligence actions of the defendants. The head hits during the game are to be viewed as a part of the game and therefore, it is impossible to say that either NFL or Riddell Incorporated did not fulfill the duties owed to the plaintiff, as the defendants cannot directly protect the player from the in-field hits but only apply immediate health measures (Beever, 2007, p. 37). Junior Seau's contract with NFL can become the perfect evidence of Seau's voluntary engagement in a potentially dangerous game in terms of in-field injuries dictated by the peculiarities of the given sport. The analysis of the Junior Seau's family suing NFL and Riddell Incorporated allows to determine the fact that the plaintiff should abandon the claim. It is almost impossible to provide legal evidence of the fact that the chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was the driving force for the player's gunshot leading to his death and therefore, impossible to prove that NFL or Riddell are legally responsible for this death. Seau's family will fail to provide legal evidence that the player’s suicide was directly caused by diagnosed the brain disease and not by any other factor. In other words, it will be impossible to show the direct relation of playing football to suicidal activity. The depressive condition of the player may also be interpreted to through the prism of the gun exposure of a CTE diagnosed individual as negligence from the side of the family. Correspondingly, the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Junior Seau's ex-wife has no legal evidence to proceed further.
The defense of negligence requires a deep comprehension of the essence of the Seau's family lawsuit. The accusations presented by the plaintiff may be referred to as nonstandard due to the absence of similar precedents in the history of the National Football League. The lawsuit is evidently missing the element of direct damage of negligence, therefore Seau's suicide may not be the result of the CTE diagnosis. Though the direct defendant's fault in Seau's suicide is an unfounded accusation, NFL should take serious steps towards the scientific research of the premises and consequences of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and Riddell Incorporated should actively participate in the study with the goal of making the helmets safer in terms of the possible CTE diagnosis. Such activity would be the best resolution in terms of the desire of the Seau's family to take care of the future generations of football players. This precedent is the driving force for the mobilization of the NFL's partnership with the NIH, Centers for Disease Control, and other leading health organizations with the goal of making medical and scientific research dedicated to the promotion of the long-term health and safety for football players as well as other athletes.
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