Touchdown in the Courtroom: Former Eagles Captain Chris Maragos Awarded $43.5 Million in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Super Bowl LVII has come and gone, and although the Philadelphia Eagles were left defeated by the Kansas City Chiefs in a close 38-35 game, former Eagles captain Chris Maragos still celebrated a big win after being awarded $43.5 million in his medical malpractice lawsuit regarding his 2017 career-ending knee injury.

Maragos is an ex-NFL All-Pro special teamer and safety who retired from the league in 2019. He began his NFL career in 2010 as an undrafted free agent who was signed by the San Francisco 49ers before playing several seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. Maragos then spent the remainder of his active NFL career with the Philly Eagles. In Week 6 of the 2017 season, he suffered a knee injury and was ultimately released by the franchise in 2019. Maragos retired soon thereafter with two Super Bowl rings under his belt – XLVIII with the Seahawks and LII with the Eagles.

Medical malpractice is a specific tort in relation to professional negligence. Generally under Canadian law, to pursue a medical malpractice claim, the patient/plaintiff must show the following: (1) a duty of care (i.e., a patient-physician relationship); (2) that the physician did not meet a reasonable standard of care; (3) that the injuries suffered were reasonably foreseeable; (4) that the physician’s conduct was the proximate cause of the injuries; and (5) that the patient suffered substantial damages. With the exception of the foreseeability element, the United States follows similar legal requirements.[1]

The subject of the lawsuit that commenced in 2019 surrounds the injuries Maragos suffered and how they were treated. Following a punt return in a game against the Carolina Panthers in October 2017, Maragos was diagnosed with a torn right posterior cruciate ligament (“PCL”). MRI imaging also showed other injuries to his knee, specifically regarding his meniscus.

Maragos alleged that his NFL career was prematurely cut short due to medical negligence by his doctors, including the failure to address the injured meniscus when undergoing the PCL reconstruction, and by advancing Maragos’ rehab which caused further damage. He sued orthopedic surgeon James Bradley, who operated on his PCL and is known for operating on NFL players, along with the Rothman Orthopaedics Institute, whose physicians oversaw Maragos’ post-surgery rehabilitation.

The defendants argued that the aggravation to the meniscus was the result of a separate event where Maragos twisted his knee. They claimed that the meniscus was “stable” and that a surgery at the time would have actually been more detrimental to his knee.

Following a two-week civil jury trial in a Philadelphia City Hall courtroom where doctors, NFL players and former teammates of Maragos, his wife, and Maragos himself testified, the 12-member jury deliberated for less than three hours before returning with their verdict. Both Bradley and Rothman Orthopaedics were found to be negligent. Of the $43.5 million award, the former is ordered to pay $29.2 million, while the latter is to pay $14.3 million.

Maragos’ lawyer Dion G. Rassias said that “this case and this jury may have changed the course of history by now forcing these team doctors and trainers to stop worrying about when a player might return to play and start thinking about the next 50 years of a player’s life.”

[1] B. Sonny Bal, “An Introduction to Medical Malpractice in the United States” (2009) 467:2 Clin Orthop Relat Res 339 at 342, DOI: <10.1007/s11999-008-0636-2>: The four legal elements for a medical malpractice claim in the United States are: “(1) the existence of a legal duty on the part of the doctor to provide care or treatment to the patient; (2) a breach of this duty by a failure of the treating doctor to adhere to the standards of the profession; (3) a causal relationship between such breach of duty and injury to the patient; and (4) the existence of damages that flow from the injury such that the legal system can provide redress.”

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