The widow of the former University of Southern California football player Matthew Gee believes her husband died due to repetitive head trauma suffered while playing for the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) in the 90s. She sued the organization in what many sports attorneys believe could be a landmark wrongful death suit.
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Gee was the team captain and played in the NCAA college football game. Soon, he led USC to many victories with his tackles and explosive head blows. After graduating, the Los Angeles Raiders replaced Gee with another player forcing him to quit the game. He married Alana and started his insurance business in Southern California, where he lived a normal life for two decades.
According to Alana Gee, in 2013, Gee lost control of his emotions and would get angry or depressed. He turned to alcohol and would see a doctor for his condition, telling him he also suffered from memory loss as he couldn’t recall incidents for days.
In 2018, Matthew Gee died on New Year’s Eve, with the hospital listing his cause of death as drugs and alcohol combined with health issues. However, Alana Gee, his wife, did not believe the diagnosis of the former University of Southern California football player because, in the last few years before his death, Matt’s behavior changed drastically.
Alana Gee donated his brain to Boston University’s CTE center, where they studied the brain and reported severe signs of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head. Following the diagnosis, she decided to sue NCAA as they were responsible for protecting her husband but failed to do so.
According to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Alana Gee, Matt died from permanent brain damage resulting from continuous blows to the head while playing for the Rose Bowl-winning team in 1990.
In the past, there have been many lawsuits against the NCAA by college football players, but Alana Gee’s is the second lawsuit that will be trialed and perhaps the first that could reach a jury.
The lawsuit alleges that the NCAA has kept a dark secret for years and did not warn the players about the severe effects of head blows, slowly killing college athletes.
However, according to court documents, the NCAA stated that they are not responsible for the death of the former University of Southern California football player, blaming his demise on drugs, alcohol, and health problems.
The NCAA lawyers created a story out of Matt Gee’s last few years alive, stating that he turned to alcohol to fill the void left behind after his playing days were over. Lawyers representing the governing body of college athletics said that Gee consumed drugs and alcohol to numb the pain he was experiencing from his numerous health conditions.
In recent years, the issue of concussions occurring from blows to the head in sports, especially football, has taken center stage as more research revealed the serious long-term effects of repeated head blows. Many researchers reported the range of symptoms of those who suffered repetitive brain injuries, from minor headaches to major issues such as depression, Parkinson’s, and many others.
In 2018, the widow of former defensive player for Texas in the 60s, Greg Ploetz, went to trial, and after several days of witness testimonies, she settled the case. In 2016, the NCAA settled a class action lawsuit pertaining to concussions by paying $70 million toward monitoring the health of former college athletes and $5 million for medical research. The organization also had to pay $5,000 to individual players claiming injuries.
The National Football League also faced similar lawsuits in recent years, agreeing to cover 20,000 retired players by paying up to $4 million for wrongful death resulting from CTE. Besides CTE, it also agreed to pay for five other qualifying conditions, and many estimate that it will cost the National Football League over $1.4 billion in payouts across 65 years.
For years, NFL kept denying the association of CTE with football but eventually accepted the research conducted by Boston University’s CTE center in 2016, which found that repetitive head trauma in football led to memory loss, depression, and other brain-related issues.
What’s startling is that the CTE center studied the brains of 111 deceased former NFL players and 53 former college players and found CTE in the brains of 110 former NFL players and 48 college football players.
Five linebackers from the 1989 Trojans squad died before age 50, and Gee was one of them. In the recent NCAA wrongful death suit, the defendants are seeking to exclude testimonies of former teammates, stating that there is no medical evidence Gee suffered concussions during his time at USC.
However, two former teammates testified during depositions that head blows were routine during football, and the management would encourage players to deliver blows with their heads.
Mike Salmon, one of Gee’s teammates, recalled how the linebackers, including Gee, would be “out of it” during hard-hitting practices. He recalled how Matthew would hit with his dead and show signs of a concussion while heading back to the huddle.
Another former teammate, Gene Fruge, stated how it was the player’s job to explode into another player without asking second questions; helmet-to-helmet contact was pretty common.
The NCAA defended itself by stating that head injuries were not well understood back then, and the organization was unaware of the long-term effects of helmet-to-helmet contact.
However, Gee’s lawsuit referred to past studies of boxers suffering from the severe effects of repeated concussions and traumatic brain impacts and also mentioned other studies pertaining to contact sports, especially football.
It stated that the organization knew about the devastating consequences of such sports actions, even during the time Gee played, but refused to warn or protect their athletes. The NCAA put profits above everything else, above the lives of the players who generated revenue for the organization.
Some individuals face drinking problems following their brain injury. In a 30-year follow-up study conducted by Bombardier et al., the findings suggested that about one-third of individuals suffering from brain disease start to drink heavily. Drug and alcohol abuse is the second most common symptom after a traumatic brain injury (TBI), next to a major depressive disorder.
In a 2000 study, Alcohol and Traumatic Disability by Bombardier, the findings reported that alcohol use and TBI might have an additive effect, further worsening cognitive recovery. Alcohol consumption following a TBI can lead to an increased risk of injuries and seizures and make it difficult for the injured person to return to work.
A 1997 study by Corrigan revealed that people consuming alcohol after their injury suffer from higher levels of depression and have lower life satisfaction than those without substance abuse difficulties. It identifies post-injury depression as a significant risk factor for alcohol dependence.
The former member of the Rose Bowl winning team, Matthew Gee, experienced depression and turned to alcohol after suffering a progressive degenerative brain disease. There have been many similar lawsuits where NCAA and NFL settled the cases with the injured victims or their family members.
If the plaintiff’s lawyers can prove that Matthew Gee died of brain and head injuries from football, it can be a real game-changer. Many sports attorneys believe that the NCAA’s attempt towards character assassination is a distraction, and they would not be able to argue the evidence showing Gee had CTE before his death, a disease not caused by substance abuse.
In the event that the NCAA loses the case, they may have to protect their players from any such injuries going forward.
Losing a loved one due to another’s negligence can be a tragedy, but it is important to act fast if you wish to seek justice and obtain compensation for your loss.
If you lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligence, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be eligible for compensation. Our experienced wrongful death attorneys will help assess your case and discuss your legal options.
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.
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