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In re National Hockey League Players' Concussion Injury Litigation

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 10, 2019

IN RE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE PLAYERS' CONCUSSION INJURY LITIGATION,
v.
NHL, et al., This document relates to Adams

          Todd Harvey, Pro Se, Plaintiff.

          Daniel J. Connolly, Joseph M. Price, Linda S. Svitak, and Aaron D. Van Oort, Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP, John H. Beisner, and Jessica D. Miller, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Shepard Goldfein, and Matthew M. Martino, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Joseph Baumgarten and Adam M. Lupion, Proskauer Rose LLP, for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant National Hockey League's (the “NHL”) motion to dismiss plaintiff Todd Harvey's claims in the Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. [Doc. No. 41.] See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion and dismisses Harvey's claims without prejudice.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The general facts pertaining to the underlying MDL are set forth in previous rulings from this Court, and are incorporated herein by reference. See NHL Players' Concussion Injury Litig., No. 14-MDL-2551 [Doc. No. 126], 2015 WL 1334027 (D. Minn. March 25, 2015); NHL Players' Concussion Injury Litig., No. 14-MDL-2551, 327 F.R.D. 245 (D. Minn. 2018). Stated briefly, this case arises from repetitive head trauma-including concussive and sub-concussive head injuries-sustained by former NHL players during their professional careers. (Class Action Compl. [Doc No. 1] (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 1-9.) The NHL, according to Plaintiffs, knew or should have known, that by “promoting fighting” in the sport, players would suffer brain trauma with debilitating long-term effects. (Id. ¶¶ 5-9, 24, 430.) The effects suffered from this NHL-sanctioned fighting include “memory loss, dementia, depression, [Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy] ‘CTE', and its related symptoms.” (Id. ¶ 318.) Moreover, Plaintiffs allege that the NHL concealed studies linking repetitive concussive events to neurodegenerative conditions. (Id. ¶¶ 27-37.)

         Based on these allegations, Plaintiffs assert six counts against the NHL. (See id. ¶¶ 480-535.) These counts mimic all six counts in the MDL complaint. See NHL Players' Concussion Injury Litig., No. 14-MDL-2551 [Doc. No. 615]. In Count I, Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that the NHL knew, or reasonably should have known, that (i) the head impacts Plaintiffs suffered were likely to substantially increase risks of neurodegenerative disorders; (ii) the NHL had a duty to advise Plaintiffs of these risks, but concealed and misled Plaintiffs concerning these risks; and (iii) the NHL recklessly endangered Plaintiffs. (Compl. ¶¶ 480-483.) In Count II, Plaintiffs allege that, as a result of the NHL's misconduct, they have experienced injuries that have increased their risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders, and that costly medical monitoring procedures are necessary to enable Plaintiffs to obtain early detection and diagnosis of those conditions. (Id. ¶¶ 484-500.)

         Counts III and IV assert negligence-based causes of action. (Id. ¶¶ 501-518.) In Count III, Plaintiffs allege that the NHL owed its players a duty of reasonable care to manage player safety and the NHL breached this duty by, among other things, promoting a culture of violence and failing to warn players of the potential negative effects of head injuries. (Id. ¶¶ 501-508.) As a result of this breach, Plaintiffs allege they have suffered or are suffering injury, including long-term neurological damage. (Id. ¶¶ 506-508.) In Count IV, Plaintiffs assert a claim for negligent misrepresentation by omission. (Id. ¶¶ 509-518.) They allege that a special relationship existed between the NHL and Plaintiffs by virtue of the NHL's “superior special knowledge of material medical information” that was not readily available to players and by virtue of the NHL's undertaking to communicate some safety information to players and the public, such that the NHL had a duty to disclose accurate information to Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 510.) According to Plaintiffs, the NHL breached its duty by negligently omitting material information regarding the link between the type of head injuries sustained in the NHL and cognition-impairing conditions. (Id. ¶¶ 516-517.) Plaintiffs assert that they reasonably relied to their detriment on these negligent misrepresentations by omission. (Id. ¶ 513.)

         Finally, Counts V and VI assert fraud-based causes of action. (Id. ¶¶ 519-535.) In Count V, Plaintiffs assert a claim for fraudulent concealment based on the NHL's alleged knowing concealment of material information regarding the risks of head injuries suffered while playing in the NHL, the NHL's alleged expectation that Plaintiffs would rely on its silence and fraudulent concealment, and Plaintiff's alleged reasonable reliance on that silence to their detriment. (Id. ¶¶ 519-526.) And, in Count VI, Plaintiffs assert a claim for fraud by omission and failure to warn. (Id. ¶¶ 527-535.) In this fraud claim, Plaintiffs allege the NHL was in a position of superior knowledge about the long-term effects of head hits. (Id. ¶ 532.) According to Plaintiffs, the NHL breached its duty to disclose this information and Plaintiffs reasonably relied on these fraudulent omissions to their detriment. (Id. ¶¶ 534-535.)

         Harvey, a Canadian citizen, is the only remaining plaintiff in this action. (Id. ¶¶ 122-127.) Harvey played in the NHL from 1993 to 2006. (Id. ¶ 122.) To support the allegations above, he asserts that he suffered roughly eight concussions and numerous head injuries. (Id. ¶¶ 124-125.) As a result of his time in the NHL, he also alleges that he presently “suffers from post-concussion symptoms including, but not limited to, headaches, memory loss, and sleep problems” and “is at an increased risk for developing serious, latent neurodegenerative disorders and diseases.” (Id. ¶¶ 126-127.) Harvey's NHL career spanned “671 regular season games and 61 playoff games” and he was involved in 55 hockey fights. (Id. ¶¶ 123-124.) The Complaint is silent about the location of these hockey games or fights. Harvey never played on an NHL team in Minnesota. (Id.)

         In this motion, the NHL challenges this Court's personal jurisdiction over Harvey and his claims. (See Def.'s Mem. Of Law in Supp. Of Mot. To Dismiss Compl. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) [Doc. No. 43] (“Def.'s Mem. Dismiss”).) The NHL-organized as an unincorporated association (Compl. ¶ 256)-argues that it is not subject to general jurisdiction in Minnesota because its headquarters and principal place of business is in New York. (Def.'s Mem. Dismiss at 1, 4-6.) As to specific jurisdiction, the NHL argues that Harvey does not allege any connection between his claims and the NHL's contacts with Minnesota. (Id. at 2, 6-9.)

         Harvey, proceeding pro se, did not respond to the NHL's motion.

         III. ...


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