NHL concussion cases head to court

A federal judge in St. Paul will hear the consolidated lawsuits of retired NHL players who may have suffered head injuries during their careers.

A special panel assigned three concussion-related cases Tuesday to U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson of St. Paul. Attorneys are hoping the court will certify the cases as a class-action lawsuit, which will allow them to represent all former NHL players.

Charles Zimmerman of the Minneapolis law firm Zimmerman Reed, one of about six law firms representing former players, said between 400 and 500 former players have already contacted the firms about the lawsuits.

"The allegation is that ... the National Hockey League did not take proper corrective and protective actions to ensure players' safety and health," Zimmerman said. "They allow fighting and they did not have proper protocols when they suffered potentially concussive injuries. As a result, the players later in life as they developed traumatic brain injury have been put at greater risk."

Zimmerman said attorneys are asking the league to create a fund to take care of players who have suffered concussion-related injuries and test those who may not know yet that they've been injured.

"The relief we're seeking is that players who have suffered injury, and have manifested serious symptoms, be compensated for those injuries, and people that have not, at least be watched and monitored so that if they do present with these injuries they can be taken care of as well," Zimmerman said.

The order Tuesday said Minnesota is a central location for both parties and witnesses, including those from Canada. It notes that Nelson is already presiding over one case that's been filed by former players. The order says two similar cases pending in Minnesota and New York may be added later.

A similar lawsuit on behalf of ex-NFL players resulted in an $870 million settlement. In another concussion lawsuit, the NCAA agreed to a $70 million settlement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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