CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney William Horton delivering his opening statement
Los Angeles, CA - A California state court jury heard opening statements Friday in just the second lawsuit claiming the NCAA failed to protect college football players from suffering serious head injuries to go to trial, and the full proceedings are being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
Plaintiff Alana Gee sued the NCAA following the death of her husband, former USC linebacker Matthew Gee. Her attorneys argue Matthew Gee’s 2018 death was the result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain condition that results from numerous impacts to the head.
However an attorney for the NCAA told the Los Angeles County jury that Gee’s death was caused by heavy drinking, drug use and other health problems.
The trial is being closely scrutinized, because out of numerous lawsuits pending nationwide against the NCAA stemming from alleged head injuries Gee’s is only the second to actually go before a jury.
The first such trial settled days after a Texas state court jury heard opening statements in a similar lawsuit filed by the widow of a former football player at the University of Texas.
CVN filmed those proceedings gavel-to-gavel and is also webcasting and recording the full trial in Los Angeles, which is expected to takes weeks to complete and could ultimately deliver the first jury verdict ever in a CTE case against the NCAA.
During his opening statement on behalf of the Gee family, Justin Shrader of Shrader & Associates described Matthew Gee’s rapid deterioration after leading a relatively normal life for years after playing college football.
He said the diagnosis of CTE came posthumously after Alana Gee provided samples of Matthew’s brain tissue for analysis on the suspicion he died because of the degenerative condition.
Bill Horton, also of Shrader & Associates, detailed to jurors during his portion of the opening statements claims that the NCAA knew student football players faced serious health risks from repeated blows to the head but failed to take action.
He argued that even after CTE became more widely known to the scientific community that the NCAA refused to require enhanced safety guidelines.
“We believe the evidence is going to show it was impossible for Matthew Gee to assume the risk of degenerative brain disease because the NCAA still believes it doesn’t exist,” he said, according to CVN’s webcast of the proceedings.
Defense attorney Will Stute of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, who leads the firm’s sports practice, acknowledged the significance of the case in his opening statement, characterizing it as a “big deal” but also arguing that student athletes like Matthew Gee knowingly take on the risks associated with head impacts when they voluntarily engage in a risky activity like full-contact football.
CVN screenshot of defense attorney Will Stute delivering his opening statement
Stute also scrutinized Gee’s medical history, telling jurors he suffered from alcoholism, obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses that contributed to his death.
The complexity of Gee’s medical history is one of the reasons both sides are expected to present extensive testimony from expert witnesses in the coming weeks. The trial before Judge Terry Green is expected to last well into November.
CVN’s gavel-to-gavel webcast, available live and on-demand, will continue for the duration of the proceedings.
The case is captioned Alana Gee, individually and as Executor of the Estate of Matthew Gee, deceased v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, case number 20STCV43627 in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles.
E-mail David Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org