Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Opioid Overdose Death Lawsuit

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On December 3, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a petition filed by the parents of a National Hockey League player, Derek Boogaard. The petition stated that the player lost his life due to an overdose of opioids prescribed by the team doctors. The ruling ended the five-year-old litigation in which the player's parents, Len and Joanne Boogaard, blamed NHL for his recurring concussions during his career.

Boogaard, who died at the age of 28 in 2011, played for the Minnesota Wild and the New York Rangers; an autopsy revealed he suffered from a chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a devastating brain condition common among ice-hockey players. His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2013 against NHL and argued that a trial judge improperly tossed the suit under a Minnesota procedural rule, which requires wrongful death and other survival actions to be presented by a court-appointed trustee. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit found that the family fortified their claims by failing to respond to the NHL's argument that the complaint filed against the league was unjust. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the case in 2017 and warned that the ruling, “should not be read to commend how the NHL handled Boogaard’s particular circumstances or the circumstances of other NHL players who over the years have suffered injuries from the on-ice play.''

Opioid overdose death lawsuits are consolidated as a part of multidistrict litigation, MDL No. 2804 (In Re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation) in the Northern District of Ohio before U.S. District Judge Dan A. Polster. The first bellwether trial in the litigation has been scheduled for September 3, 2019.

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