Suit claims NHL didn't inform players

The NHL has responded to a class action concussion lawsuit alleging that the league did not provide the proper protection and information to its players regarding traumatic head injuries.

The league filed a motion to dismiss the suit with the Minnesota district court earlier this week, one brief for dismissal arguing labor preemption grounds and another brief for dismissal on statute of limitations and pleading failure grounds, according to documents obtained by ESPN.com.

The suit, which was originally filed in 2013, claims that the league downplayed the risks of head injuries, promoted the sport's brutality and violence, and fraudulently concealed information that could have protected players from long-term damage.

Among the former NHL players featured as plaintiffs in the class action suit are Dan LaCouture, Michael Peluso, Gary Leeman, Bernie Nicholls, David Christian and Reed Larson.

According to the lawsuit, these players are suffering from a variety of ailments such as headaches, nausea, memory loss, depression and anxiety, and are at an increased risk of "developing serious latent neurodegenerative disorders and diseases including, but not limited to, CTE, dementia, Alzheimer's disease or similar cognitive-impairing conditions."

LaCouture, Peluso, Leeman and Nicholls are part of the "impairment subclass" of the suit, players who "experienced or are experiencing symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, ALS, post-concussion syndrome, neurological deficit, cognitive impairment, dementia or CTE."

According to the plaintiffs' most recent complaint, the league "either took no steps to protect and educate its players or took insufficient steps to make players aware of the real risks of playing in the NHL, which would have protected players from unnecessary long-term effects of head trauma."

The pending litigation comes on the heels of a proposed settlement between the NFL and former NFL players over concussion claims that was originally reported to be valued at $765 million.

The two cases, however, have completely different sets of facts.

And according to the documents filed by the NHL, the league feels it has firm legal ground to stand upon in facing such allegations.

In one brief for dismissal, the NHL claims that collectively-bargained agreements between the league and NHLPA already comprehensively govern such issues as "Player health and safety, including the 'helmet requirement,' rules concerning removal from and return to work following an injury, neuropsychological testing of Players, Playing Rules on body checking, fighting and hits to the head, and disciplinary procedures."

In the other brief, the league cites certain statutes of limitations that preclude the plaintiffs from seeking compensation and considers the claims "untimely."

The league also takes issue with allegations of fraudulent concealment with respect to medical information that was "readily available in the public domain."

"These claims should be dismissed because plaintiffs have not alleged a duty to disclose or the circumstances surrounding the NHL's alleged omissions with sufficient particularity. Nor do their pleadings adequately support their assertion that the NHL somehow concealed publicly available information," the league asserts in court documents. "At minimum, plaintiffs should be required to provide a more definite statement in support of their fraud-based claims."

According to Stuart A. Davidson, an attorney with the firm Robbins Gellar Rudman and Dowd, representing the plaintiffs, there will be legal memoranda filed next month that will show the NHL's motions to be "entirely without merit."

Davidson called the league's attempts to invoke federal labor laws designed to promote labor peace and their "blame the victim" defense "both legally wrong and quite shameful."

"As a direct result of the NHL's failure to warn and protect its players of the long-term consequences of repeated head and brain trauma, many players are now suffering from serious cognitive problems and brain diseases. How many more Wade Belaks, Rick Rypiens and Derek Boogaards should there be?" Davidson wrote in an email to ESPN.com, mentioning three players who died in the summer of 2011. "It's time for the NHL to stand up and take care of the players on whose backs -- and brains -- the League made hundreds of millions of dollars off of. No more hiding behind legal technicalities which, in any event, are erroneous. "

The NHL declined comment on the pending litigation.