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Breland v. Arena Football One, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 10, 2017


         SECTION “L” (3)

          ORDER & REASONS

         Before the Court is Defendant Arena Football One's Motion seeking Summary Judgment. (R. Doc. 87). The Court has reviewed the motions and applicable law, and issues the following order and reasons.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of injuries allegedly sustained by Plaintiff Lorenzo Breland while he was employed as a professional arena football player. Jurisdiction of this Court is invoked under diversity. (R. Doc. 44 at 1). Plaintiff alleges misrepresentation, fraud, negligence, and breach of contract against Defendants, Arena Football One, L.L.C. (“AFO”), which owns Arena Football League One, LLC (“AFLO”), and Louisiana Arena Football, L.L.C. (“LAF”), which owns the New Orleans Voodoo franchise. Plaintiff has also filed claims against AFO's insurers, including National Casualty Company (“National”) and Federal Insurance Company (“Federal”), [1] averring that they provided a commercial general liability policy to AFO, AFLO, and LAF. (R. Doc. 53 at 3).[2]

         Plaintiff alleges he initially sustained a concussion while playing for the Tulsa Talons in 2011, which is part of the AFO league. (R. Doc. 44 at 12). After the team doctor diagnosed Plaintiff, he alleges the team encouraged him to return and he started the following game. Id. Subsequently, he played for the New Orleans Voodoo. Plaintiff alleges that he sustained a severe blow to the head during a game on April 11, 2014, which caused a second concussion. Id. Plaintiff claims that, after the 2014 concussion, he received inadequate medical attention and care and was pressured to return to playing football before he was fully rehabilitated. Id. He avers that, after complaining to the coach about his continued health problems, he was sent to a speech pathologist. Id. Plaintiff alleges that this head injury caused him to remain bedridden for six weeks, and that he was ultimately suspended from the league and cut from the LAF team. Id. at 12-13. Plaintiff avers the 2014 concussion ended his career, and Defendants did not pay for his ongoing medical care or rehabilitation to allow him to return to play in a healthy manner. Id. at 13. Plaintiff states that he continues to suffer long-term problems, including dizziness, memory loss, headaches, weight loss, neck aches and fatigue, and that he faces an increased risk for future disorders as a result of the injuries. Id. at 13, 16.

         Plaintiff seeks damages, past and future medical expenses related to the concussions, and medical monitoring to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of future disorders caused by the injuries. Id. at 17. Plaintiff asserts that AFO knew of the potential risks associated with head trauma but intentionally concealed them. Id. at 13-14; 18. Further, AFO fostered an environment of brutality and violence and ignored the wellbeing of its players for the sake of profit. Id. at 14. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants breached their duties by failing to take appropriate steps to prevent or mitigate the potential for injury, avoiding such steps due to the expense and impact on league profitability. (R. Doc. 29 at 22). Plaintiff claims that Defendants falsely represented to him that he would receive excellent medical care, which they failed to provide. Id. at 13. Plaintiff alleges that the league players' collective bargaining agreement created an obligation that the Defendants pay all medical expenses resulting from any injury sustained while playing in a game, but that Defendants have acted in bad faith and refused to pay any expenses incurred as a result of Plaintiff's 2014 concussion. Id. at 26.

         Specifically, Plaintiff seeks (1) Declaratory Relief under 28 USC §2201 stating that Defendants knew or should have known about the long-term effects of trauma to the head that Plaintiff endured while playing for AFO, had a duty to advise Plaintiff of that risk but instead willfully and intentionally concealed the risk, and recklessly endangered Plaintiff; (2) an injunction for Court-supervised and Defendant-funded medical monitoring for long-term neurological affects as a result of Plaintiffs' minor traumatic brain injuries (“MTBI”), which was a result of Defendants' tortious conduct; (3) compensatory damages for past, current, and future medical care; (4) compensatory damages for pain and suffering; (5) punitive damages; (6) any other relief; (7) attorneys' fees; (8) and injunction and/or equitable relief against National, holding that the insurance policy provided coverage for Plaintiffs' injuries and claims and holding National in bad faith under La. R.S. §§22:1892 and 22:1973. (R. Doc. 44 at 14-28). Specifically to 8, Plaintiff seeks all forms of insurance penalties, bad faith damages, general damages, and attorneys' fees permitted under the aforementioned statutes if National declines coverage. (R. Doc. 53 at 3).

         Plaintiff's original Complaint had stated that he was an employee of AFO and the New Orleans Voodoo, and that he was employed by AFO from 2010 to 2014. (R. Doc. 1 at 11-12). Plaintiff added Defendant LAF to the suit after discovering that LAF owned the New Orleans Voodoo during the time period relevant to Plaintiff's injuries. (R. Doc. 16 at 1). Plaintiff submitted that he had mistakenly claimed in the Complaint that he was employed by AFO, when in fact he was never employed by AFO. (R. Doc. 16-1 at 2). However, Defendants maintain, and Plaintiff now concedes, that Plaintiff was an employee of AFO at all relevant times. (R. Doc. 87-1 at 2 n.4; R. Doc. 94 at 3).


         Defendant Arena Football One, LLC (“AFO”) brought the present motion for summary judgment, maintaining that the instant suit is precluded because at the time of his alleged injuries, Plaintiff was an employee of AFO and therefore can only seek recovery through the Louisiana Worker's Compensation Act (“LWCA”). (R. Doc. 87-1 at 1). Plaintiff responded, alleging that certain claims under intentional tort remain: AFO failed to pay Plaintiff's medical expenses, failed to provide medical treatment, and failed to have a proper concussion protocol. (R. Doc. 94). Because AFO acted with specific intent to cause him injury and damages and because intentional torts are excluded from the LWCA, Plaintiff argues his suit is properly before this court. Id. at 3.


         a. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, the Court considers “all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), the moving party bears the initial burden of “informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. When the moving party has met its Rule 56(c) burden, “[t]he non-movant cannot avoid summary judgment . . . by merely making ‘conclusory allegations' or ‘unsubstantiated assertions.'” Calbillo v. Cavender Oldsmobile, Inc., 288 F.3d 721, 725 (5th Cir. 2002) (quoting Little, 37 F.3d at 1075). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 253 (1986). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a party ...

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