Pop Warner Football Settles Brain Injury Lawsuit

Posted in Negligence, Wrongful Death at 8:51 am by kevin

Pop Warner, the oldest and biggest youth football program in the United States, made news earlier in March when it settled a brain injury lawsuit that was filed by the family of a young man who committed suicide in 2012.

The victim, 25-year-old Joseph Chernach, died on June 7, 2012, when he hung himself in his mother’s shed. His family believed that one of the biggest contributors to his suicide was chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a type of progressive degenerative disease of the brain. This illness reportedly caused him to have poor mental capacity, prevented him from controlling his mood, and eventually pushed him to end his life.

The lawsuit was filed by Chernach’s mother Debra Pyka in February 2015 against the Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., The Pop Warner Foundation, and Lexington Insurance Company (Pop Warner’s insurer).


What is CTE?

CTE usually develops in people who undergo repetitive brain trauma, such as concussions. It’s common among athletes who play contact sports such as football (both American and association football), ice hockey, wrestling, motocross, and bull riding. It’s important to note, though, that it doesn’t only affect professional athletes; a recent study found out that even teenagers who play football for just a few years in high school can develop long-term brain damage — even if they don’t go on to play in college and professionally.

This seems to be what happened to Joseph Chernach. He played football with Pop Warner for three years (from 1997 to 2000) and went on to become an excellent student and athlete. But everything changed when he reached his sophomore year in college, when he began to exhibit changes in his mood, behavior, and cognitive functions. All three went on to decline every year until his death, causing him to be depressed and making him paranoid and suspicious of family and friends.

According to the lawsuit, Chernach reached the point when he could no longer “control the impulse to kill himself”. The lawsuit also pointed out that his suicide was the “natural and probable consequence of the injuries he suffered” when he played football with Pop Warner.


What does this case mean for other people?

The lawsuit filed by Chernach’s mother sought $5 million in damages, although the actual terms of settlement has not been revealed.

The settlement is one of the many cases that demonstrate the heightened awareness about CTE and the pressure that many football organizations face from people who are concerned about concussion-related damage. The National Football League is one such organization. In 2015, a class-action lawsuit was approved between the NFL and former players, ensuring that the ex-NFL players who retired on or before July 7, 2014, would receive up to $5 million each. This amount is provided to help the players with any serious medical conditions that are related to concussion-related head injuries.

The NFL, for the first time, has acknowledged that there is a link between football and CTE. Pop Warner, meanwhile, has taken steps to make football safer for the young people who play the game.

With the settlement of the Chernach lawsuit, ex-football players and their families may want to look into filing a personal injury lawsuit against the relevant organization. This way, they can seek compensation for the damages that they have suffered because of the illness and injuries that resulted from football-related brain trauma.