Family of Jovan Belcher sues Kansas City Chiefs in wrongful death suit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The family of former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher filed suit against the organization on Tuesday, alleging that neurological damage done over years of playing football for the Chiefs led to Belcher's 2012 mental breakdown, in which he shot his girlfriend to death before taking his own life in a stadium parking lot .

The suit is the third filed against the Chiefs this month relating to brain injuries from concussions, and includes similar counts as the others: negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and, in this case, wrongful death. The suit, filed in the name of Belcher's mother Cheryl Shepherd, requests damages beginning at $15,000 and a trial by jury.

In the lawsuit, the family's attorneys lay out a litany of research about the inherent dangers of football and concussions that they say the Chiefs should have been aware of. The suit also makes note of two specific games in which Belcher may have suffered serious head injuries. 

Read the lawsuit  (PDF).

In the first, a November 2009 tilt against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Belcher was briefly knocked unconscious, but returned to the practice field a few days later, and played in the following Sunday's game. In a November 2012 game against Cincinnati, Belcher suffered a blow in the fourth quarter that the suit says Chiefs personnel should have identified as concussive. Belcher continued to play.

The suit says the Chiefs "fostered an environment" where Belcher was forced to play through injuries and "become further exposed to neurological harm." It accuses former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and others in the organization of berating Belcher and warning they would "get rid of him" if he did not perform.

Through a spokesperson, the Chiefs declined to comment on the lawsuit. Pioli did not immediately return requests for comment on the suit.

On the night Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and himself, the lawsuit says he was "suffering from neurological impairments and insane and/or irresistible impulses overriding his ability to control his actions." It does not make mention of the autopsy report conducted after Belcher's death that also said he was drunk at the time of the shooting – with a blood alcohol content more than double the legal limit.

Multiple former Chiefs players have taken advantage of a loophole in Missouri employment law that allows them to sue the team directly for issues relating to concussions, not just the entire NFL, as a large group of players recently rewarded a settlement has done.

One former Chiefs player involved in litigation against the NFL, but not the Chiefs, told 41 Action News on Tuesday that he expected to see more suits filed in the weeks and months to come, against both the Chiefs and their cross-state rival, the St. Louis Rams. 

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