Mother of Former NFL Players Sue Team for Wrongful Death
By Dave Skretta
The mother of former Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the team after exhuming his body so that his brain could be examined for evidence of a degenerative condition linked to repeated concussions.
The lawsuit, filed by Cheryl Shepherd in Jackson County (Mo.) circuit court, alleges Belcher was subjected to “repetitive head trauma,” and that the Chiefs failed to provide adequate medical care before Belcher killed his girlfriend and then committed suicide last December.
Shepherd is seeking a jury trial and judgment “in excess of $15,000 for actual damages, punitive damages, and/or aggravating circumstances, for the cost of this action, and for such relief as the court deems fair and reasonable.”
Belcher’s body was exhumed at a cemetery in Bay Shore, N.Y., at his family’s request so that his brain could be studied for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative neurological condition. CTE has been linked to multiple concussions and includes symptoms such as memory problems, behavioral changes and eventually dementia.
CTE has made headlines in recent years with the deaths of some former professional athletes, including former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau and former Bears safety Dave Duerson.
Shepherd’s lawsuit claims the Chiefs failed to warn her son of the short-term and long-term risks of concussions; failed to identify and remove Belcher from practice or games after sustaining head trauma; failed to educate Belcher about concussions; failed to monitor or treat Belcher for neurological dysfunction; and failed to provide appropriate counseling.
According to the lawsuit, Belcher was knocked unconscious during a game against Jacksonville in 2009 but did not receive adequate treatment before returning to team activities.
On Dec. 1, 2012, Belcher shot to death his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, while Shepherd was caring for his infant daughter in a nearby room. Belcher then sped from the residence to the Chiefs training facility, where he shot himself in the head in the parking lot.