A judge in U.S. District Court in Minnesota denied the NHL's motion for dismissal in the current concussion litigation facing the league.
The suit was brought on behalf of several former NHL players. It alleged the NHL to be responsible for the "pathological and debilitating effects of brain injuries" caused by concussions that the former players suffered in their careers.
The NHL attempted to get the case thrown out by arguing both time-sensitivity and jurisdictional issues. The league also claimed the suit was not "adequately pled."
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson found the league's three arguments for dismissal insufficient.
"The Court finds each of these arguments insufficient to warrant dismissal because: (1) it is not clear from the face of the Master Complaint that Plaintiffs' claims are untimely; (2) Plaintiffs' claims are adequately pled; and (3) it is not possible on the present record to determine which jurisdictions' laws apply to Plaintiffs' medical monitoring claim," Nelson wrote, according to court documents obtained by ESPN.com.
Nelson has yet to issue a ruling on the league's other motion for dismissal, which is based on labor law pre-emption. No timeline has been divulged to either party as to when that ruling will be made, sources confirmed to ESPN.com.
Wednesday's ruling was just the latest in what is expected to be a bitter legal battle.
The six plaintiffs in the case -- Dan LaCouture, Michael Peluso, Gary Leeman, Bernie Nicholls, David Christian and Reed Larson -- claim that the NHL spurned their duty to advise players of the risks they faced with concussions and brain injuries and both "intentionally concealed material information" from and "recklessly endangered" the plaintiffs.
"We are pleased the Court has confirmed the validity of our claims and found the NHL's arguments insufficient to warrant dismissal of this case," the plaintiffs' co-lead counsel said in a statement Wednesday. "It is time for the NHL to be held accountable for deliberately ignoring and concealing the risks of repeated head impacts, and finally provide security and care to retired players whom the League has depended on for its success."
Following Judge Nelson's decision to deny the league's motion for dismissal, the plaintiffs filed a new brief Wednesday evening seeking to depose NHL commissioner Gary Bettman by July 1, 2015.
According to the brief, obtained by ESPN.com, the plaintiffs claim that the league "now wants to preclude, or at least prejudicially postpone" the deposition of Bettman and called this an "effort to frustrate the Plaintiffs' discovery strategy."
While the league is trying to invoke what is called the "apex doctrine" which essentially argues that Bettman is a senior executive with "little or no knowledge of the case's key facts," the plaintiffs argue that he is instead a critical witness.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly responded in a statement later Thursday:
"We are opposing the request simply on the basis that the deposition at this point in the case, with virtually no meaningful discovery having taken place, would be premature," Daly told ESPN.com via email. "We are not taking the position that the Commissioner can never be deposed, just that to do so on the timeline the plaintiffs are proposing is not appropriate."
According to the brief, the plaintiffs have also sent deposition subpoenas to longtime Philadelphia Flyers trainer Jim McCrossin and former Pittsburgh Penguins doctor Charles Burke in their discovery process.
McCrossin is a member of the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society and the NHL-NHLPA Concussion Working Group while Dr. Burke is a former head of the NHL's Physicians' Society and author of the 2011 NHL Concussion Study Report.
It is not immediately clear when Nelson will rule on this issue.