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Jovan Belcher's Mom Sues Chiefs for Wrongful Death

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Jovan Belcher's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Kansas City Chiefs, claiming that the team was directly responsible for her son's deteriorating mental health. As you may recall, the former linebacker killed his girlfriend and himself in December 2012.

Belcher's mother, Cheryl Shepherd, believes his repeated concussions were to blame for his violent actions and that the Chiefs could have prevented them.

Wrongful Death

Belcher took his own life at a Chief's facility after fatally shooting his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, in their home, leaving their daughter orphaned. Shepherd's wrongful death lawsuit claims that the Chiefs "directly caused or directly contributed to cause [Belcher] to develop post-concussion syndrome," which "caused or contributed to cause irresistible and/or insane impulses," such as committing a murder-suicide, reports The Kansas City Star.

Belcher's mother claims that the Chiefs were negligent in exposing Belcher to frequent head trauma and failing to offer him adequate care. In the months leading up to Belcher's death, the Chiefs were allegedly aware of Belcher's symptoms and signs of cognitive and neuropsychiatric impairment, but did nothing.

To make her case, she draws a sharp contrast between the Chiefs' micro-management of Belcher's physical health -- including his diet, speed, strength and body-mass index -- and his unchecked, but rapidly declining mental health. The Chiefs allegedly disregarded evidence of impairments and encouraged him to play through his injuries, thereby exposing him to further neurological harm, reports the Star.


Much of the evidence for the wrongful death suit will rely on Belcher's pending autopsy results. Shepherd believes the autopsy will reveal signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease linked to brain trauma, reports the Star.

CTE has been found in the brains of both living and deceased football players at a rate higher than the general population and is associated with "memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression and, eventually, progressive dementia," according to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.

The disease has been found in the brains of many former football players, including stars like Junior Seau, who committed suicide in May 2012, as well as former professional wrestler Chris Benoit, who killed his wife and son before hanging himself in 2007.

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