A Los Angeles jury Tuesday rejected a multimillion-dollar wrongful death lawsuit against the NCAA by a woman who claimed that her late husband suffered brain damage while playing football for USC.
On its first full day of deliberations, the Los Angeles Superior Court jury found that the NCAA was not liable in the death of Matthew Gee, who died in 2018. His widow, Alana Gee, claimed his death stemmed from permanent brain damage he suffered while playing linebacker for the 1990 Rose Bowl-winning team.
Attorneys for Alana Gee asked jurors during closing arguments Monday to award her more than $50 million in damages. They argued during the monthlong trial that Gee’s death was the result of repetitive harmful blows to the head.
Gee alleged in her lawsuit, filed in November 2020, that the NCAA unreasonably increased the risk of head injuries inherent in collegiate football, which led to her husband developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain condition thought to be caused by head blows, leading to his substance abuse and ultimate death.
Following Tuesday’s verdict, Scott Bearby, NCAA senior vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, issued a statement saying the organization was gratified that jurors “agreed overwhelmingly with our position in this case.”
“The NCAA bore no responsibility for Mr. Gee’s tragic death, and furthermore, the case was not supported by medical science linking Mr. Gee’s death to his college football career,” he said. “We express our deepest sympathies to Mr. Gee’s family.”
NCAA attorneys blamed Gee’s death on alcohol and drug abuse as well as other health problems. In court papers filed in the midst of the trial, the organization’s attorneys stated that Gee and her legal team had failed to show a link between her husband’s death and the organization’s conduct.
The NCAA attorneys further argued that Gee failed to show that any NCAA action or inaction unreasonably increased the inherent risks of collegiate football, let alone that any NCAA action or inaction caused Matthew Gee’s death.
Gee’s lawsuit was the first case of its type to reach a jury. A similar case involving a former University of Texas football player went to trial in 2018, but it was settled after testimony began.
In 2016, the NCAA agreed to settle a class action concussion lawsuit, paying $70 million to monitor former college athletes’ medical conditions, $5 million toward medical research and payments of up to $5,000 toward individual players claiming injuries.