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Jury finds NCAA not accountable for ex-USC LB Matthew Gee’s loss of life

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LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Tuesday rejected a declare by the widow of a former USC soccer participant who mentioned the NCAA failed to guard him from repeated head trauma that led to his loss of life.

Matthew Gee, a linebacker on the 1990 Rose Bowl-winning squad, endured an estimated 6,000 hits that triggered everlasting mind injury and led to cocaine and alcohol abuse that finally killed him at age 49, attorneys for his widow alleged.

The NCAA mentioned it had nothing to do with Gee’s loss of life, which it mentioned was a sudden cardiac arrest introduced on by untreated hypertension and acute cocaine toxicity. A lawyer for the governing physique of U.S. faculty sports activities mentioned Gee suffered from many different well being issues not associated to soccer, reminiscent of liver cirrhosis, that may have finally killed him.

The decision may have broad ramifications for faculty athletes who blame the NCAA for head accidents.

Tons of of wrongful loss of life and private harm lawsuits have been introduced by faculty soccer gamers towards the NCAA up to now decade, however Gee’s is the primary one to succeed in a jury alleging that hits to the pinnacle led to persistent traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative mind illness identified by its acronym, CTE.

“We’re gratified that the jury, after contemplating 4 weeks of proof and testimony, agreed overwhelmingly with our place on this case,” Scott Bearby, NCAA senior vice chairman of authorized affairs and normal counsel, mentioned in an announcement. “The NCAA bore no accountability for Mr. Gee’s tragic loss of life, and moreover, the case was not supported by medical science linking Mr. Gee’s loss of life to his faculty soccer profession. We specific our deepest sympathies to Mr. Gee’s household.”

Alana Gee had testified that the faculty sweethearts had 20 good years of marriage earlier than her husband’s psychological well being started to deteriorate and he turned indignant, depressed and impulsive, and started overeating and abusing medication and alcohol.

Attorneys for Gee mentioned CTE, which is present in athletes and navy veterans who suffered repetitive mind accidents, was an oblique reason behind loss of life as a result of head trauma has been proven to advertise substance abuse.

The NCAA mentioned the case hinged on what it knew on the time Gee performed, from 1988-92, and never about CTE, which was first found within the mind of a deceased NFL participant in 2005.

Gee by no means reported having a concussion and mentioned in an utility to play with the Raiders after graduating that he had by no means been knocked unconscious, NCAA legal professional Will Stute mentioned.

“You may’t maintain the NCAA accountable for one thing 40 years later that no one ever reported,” Stute mentioned in his closing argument. “The plaintiffs need you in a time journey machine. We do not have one on the NCAA. It is not honest.”

Attorneys for Gee’s household mentioned there was little question that Matt Gee suffered concussions and numerous sub-concussive blows.

Mike Salmon, a teammate who went on to play within the NFL, testified that Gee, who was group captain his senior 12 months, as soon as was so dazed from successful that he could not name the subsequent play.

Gee was one in every of 5 linebackers on the 1989 Trojans squad who died earlier than turning 50. All displayed indicators of psychological deterioration related to head trauma.

As with teammate and NFL star Junior Seau, who killed himself in 2012, Gee’s mind was examined posthumously at Boston College’s Persistent Traumatic Encephalopathy Heart and located to have CTE.

Jurors weren’t allowed to listen to testimony about Gee’s deceased teammates.

Alana Gee’s attorneys had argued that the NCAA, which was based in 1906 for athlete security, had identified about impacts from head accidents for the reason that Nineteen Thirties however failed to teach gamers, ban headfirst contact, or implement baseline testing for concussion signs.

Her attorneys had requested jurors to award $55 million to compensate for her loss.

Alana Gee had tears in her eyes and sniffled as the decision was learn. She instructed one in every of her attorneys that she did not perceive how the jury got here to that call, and declined to remark afterward.

“We really feel deep sympathy for the Gee household proper off the bat,” Stute, the NCAA legal professional, mentioned afterward. “However we really feel like this verdict is a vindication of the place we have taken in all these instances.”

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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