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Pro hockey player's family sues NHL over his overdose death

Derek Boogaard played in National Hockey League teams as an enforcer, a job that led to him getting in multiple fights on the ice. In these fights, he received repeated blows to the head, which led to brain injury. To treat his condition, NHL doctors prescribed Boogaard massive amounts of powerful painkillers. He got addicted to the medications and died of an accidental overdose. He was just 28 years old.

That is the story behind an unusual wrongful death lawsuit filed recently by Boogaard's family members. They claim that the NHL is legally responsible for Boogaard's death because it failed to monitor his intake of painkillers. The league knew he was addicted to the painkillers, and promised to treat him for his addiction, but failed to follow through, the lawsuit claims.

Further, the lawsuit alleges that the league knew, or should have known, that enforcers were at a high risk for developing brain injury. In an autopsy, Boogaard was found to suffer from a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by repeated blows to the head.

Wrongful death lawsuits are filed by close family members on behalf of a deceased person's estate. Any award goes to the estate, and is distributed to the deceased person's heirs through a will or the laws of inheritance.

The legal theory of wrongful death often comes up in Texas medical malpractice lawsuits in which a patient died due to surgical error or a mistake in prescription drugs. Medical providers who prescribe drugs to patients have a legal duty to perform up to the standards of their profession. When they fail to provide professional-standard care, and a patient is killed or injured as a result, the patient or the patient's family can be compensated for financial damages through a lawsuit.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Boogaard Family Sues NHL for Son's Death," May 17, 2013

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