(Reuters) – The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Tuesday struck a $55 million lawsuit brought by the widow of a former University of Southern California linebacker who said the organization did not adequately protect her husband from concussions.
A California state court jury ruled against Alana Gee on her claims that the NCAA failed to take reasonable precautions around concussions and educate players about the dangers of repeated head impacts. Her husband, Matthew Gee, played at USC from 1988 to 1992 and died in 2018 after suffering from the brain condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
The landmark case was the first to test whether the NCAA could be held liable for traumatic brain injuries suffered by players, lawyers said.
The NCAA̵7;s senior vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, Scott Bearby, said in a statement Tuesday that the organization has a long track record of improving player safety.
“The NCAA bore no responsibility for Mr. Gee’s tragic death, and furthermore, the case was not supported by medical science linking Mr. Gee’s death to his college football career,” Mr. Bearby.
Attorneys for Alana Gee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Matthew Gee died of a heart attack caused by high blood pressure as well as cocaine and alcohol toxicity, according to a medical examiner’s report. Alana Gee’s attorneys said his addiction and health problems stemmed from CTE.
Tests of Mr. Gee’s brain tissue after his death concluded that he suffered from CTE and that this “likely contributed” to his cognitive decline, according to Alana Gee’s November 2020 lawsuit.
“Had the NCAA revealed the truth to Matthew Gee, he would at least have taken more precautions to protect his head and otherwise ensure his safety while playing football,” the lawsuit states.
NCAA lawyers argued during the month-long trial in Los Angeles Superior Court that the organization took reasonable precautions around head trauma and could have done nothing to prevent Gee’s death, which they contended was related to CTE.