Ohio SC reinstates lawsuit against NCAA, Notre Dame over concussions

By Charmaine Little | Nov 16, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) – On Oct. 31, Justice Judith L. French of the Supreme Court of Ohio wrote that a family’s negligence claims against the University of Notre Dame are not time-barred.

After a trial court and appeals court dismissed the case, the Supreme Court determined an amended complaint actually is not time-barred and determined the case shouldn’t be dismissed.

The claims stem from plaintiff Steven Schmitz suffering multiple concussions and brain impacts during his time as a football player for the college in the mid-1970s. In late 2012, Schmitz was diagnosed with brain condition CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the ruling states.

Two years later, he suffered memory loss and related conditions including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, which he said were because of the head injuries he experienced while playing football for Notre Dame. He and his wife sued the school and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in October 2014 over allegations of negligence, constructive fraud and fraudulent concealment and alleged they failure to inform, educate and protect Schmitz from the damages he suffered as a result of head impacts. Schmitz died the following February.

Justice Judith L. French   Ohio Supreme Court

The Supreme Court first pointed out that the R.C. 2305.10(A) says that a lawsuit from a bodily injury should be brought within two years after the cause of action accrues. While the defendant said the action concluded in 1978 when Schmitz wrapped his time as a football player for the school, his family says the action occurred in 2012 when he was actually diagnosed with CTE, so their 2014 lawsuit isn’t time-barred.

While the complaint says Schmitz consistently “’experienced concussive symptoms, including but not limited to being substantially disoriented as to time and place,’ during drills, practices, and games,” according to the Supreme Court, the court added that this doesn’t necessarily indicate the existence of actionable wrongdoing, since head injuries and even concussions, are potentially inevitable for football players.

Since Schmitz sought recovery for his memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, CTE and dementia, the amended complaint doesn’t bring up any accusations that these things occurred before 2012, so they are within the two-year time frame.

Plus, since Schmitz didn’t know or realize that he experienced the injury because of playing football until he was actually diagnosed in 2012, the Supreme Court decided that it couldn’t determine the claims and injuries occurred when Schmitz finished playing football in 1978.

Still, while the Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of the case, it determined the fraudulent concealment and constructive fraud claims are subject to a two-year statute of limitation.

Justice Sharon L. Kennedy only concurred with part of the judgment. Kennedy pointed out there is still much to be learned about not only Schmitz’s injuries but any potential causes. She said she would remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

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