Three former UCLA football players are suing the school for alleged negligence in the handling of injuries while they played for the Bruins under coach Jim Mora. All three lawsuits are seeking damages of more than $15 million.
Former offensive linemen John Lopez and Poasi Moala say that UCLA mishandled several head injuries they suffered, which continue to impact them now and, for Lopez, might have contributed to a suicide attempt. Former Bruins offensive lineman Zach Bateman says in his lawsuit that UCLA was negligent in how it handled severe injuries he suffered to both of his feet while playing.
All three lawsuits, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, name Mora, former offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, associate trainer Anthony Venute, the UCLA regents and the NCAA. Mora coached UCLA from 2012 to 2017. ESPN hired him as a college football analyst in July 2018.
"Each of these young men suffered serious, but significantly different injuries, while they were teammates at UCLA," Pamela Tahim Thakur, an attorney representing all three former players, said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. "While the lawsuits involve many of the same facts, each case is distinct in its own way. But what they all have in common is the pattern of brutality and intentional disregard for player health and safety by coach Mora and his staff at UCLA."
Lopez's lawsuit cites three concussions he suffered at UCLA, leading to his medical retirement after the 2015 season. He alleges that UCLA didn't follow protocols after he suffered his first two concussions, in training camp in 2013 and 2014. Lopez also says that Klemm verbally abused him and other injured players and put them through "strenuous and dangerous drills," some of which were required and led to repeated hits to the head.
Lopez's claim states that his head injuries prevented him from finishing school. He said he attempted suicide in 2016 with a combination of over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Moala's claim also cites multiple concussions he suffered at UCLA as well as serious hip injuries that required surgeries. Bateman's claim states that UCLA rushed him back from injuries before they truly healed.
In a statement to media outlets, UCLA denied the accusations made by the former players.
"We handle every injury with the highest standard of care, and take potential head injuries very seriously," UCLA's statement reads. "As one of the world's leading research institutions, and a partner in the largest-ever concussion research study conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense and NCAA, we believe our concussion protocol is among the strongest in the country. Our team physicians and sports medicine staff work hand-in-hand on diagnosis, monitoring and treatment, and they are the only individuals who determine when a student-athlete is cleared to participate in their sport; coaches are not involved in these decisions."