A lawsuit brought against the NCAA by a woman who says her late husband suffered brain damage while playing football for USC and died at age 49 should go to a jury, the widow’s attorneys argue in court papers filed Friday in rebuttal to defense arguments in favor of dismissing the case in the middle of trial.

Alana Gee sued the NCAA in Los Angeles Superior Court in November 2020 for wrongful death. She alleges the association failed to protect her late spouse, Matthew Gee, from the damage caused by repetitive harmful blows to his head. Opening statements in trial of the plaintiff’s suit took place before a jury and Judge Terry Green on Oct 21.

Matthew Gee died in 2018, allegedly from permanent brain damage suffered while playing linebacker for the 1990 Rose Bowl-winning team.

NCAA attorneys blame Gee’s death on alcohol and drug abuse as well as other health problems. In court papers filed on Nov. 10, the organization’s attorneys state that Gee and her legal team have failed to show a link during trial between her husband’s death and the organization’s conduct and that, therefore, her case should be dismissed without going to the jury.

But Gee’s attorneys dispute that argument and say the case belongs in the hands of the panel that has listened to weeks of testimony.

“The NCAA’s motion for (dismissal) should be denied because (Gee) has introduced substantial evidence supporting each disputed component of her claims,” Gee’s lawyers argue in their court papers.

Gee alleges that the NCAA unreasonably increased the risk of head injuries inherent in collegiate football, which led to her husband developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain condition thought to be caused by head blows, leading to his substance abuse and ultimate death.

“Indeed, three different medical experts explicitly opined that college football was a substantial factor in causing Matthew Gee’s death,” Gee’s lawyers state in their court papers. “Further, extensive game footage showing Matt Gee taking blows to the head while playing NCAA football has been shown to the jury.”

Gee’s attorneys further argue in their court papers that they have offered substantial evidence that the NCAA has not reduced the known risk of long-term health effects of repetitive head trauma in college football, which the lawyers say could be accomplished without altering the essential nature of football.

As examples, the NCAA could have warned student athletes of the risk of head trauma, limiting contact practice like the NFL and/or changed the rules to reduce the number of head blows they experience, according to Gee’s attorneys’ court papers.

“Therefore, (Gee) has shown substantial evidence that the NCAA’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing Matthew Gee to sustain more head impacts than he would have if the NCAA had acted reasonably,” Gee’s attorneys argue in their court papers.

But NCAA lawyers maintain in their court papers that Gee has not shown during trial that CTE led to Matthew Gee’s substance abuse or that he developed the condition while playing college football.

The NCAA attorneys further state in their court papers that Gee has not shown 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.

The attorneys also are asking for dismissal of Gee’s punitive damages claim, arguing that her attorneys have not shown that anyone connected with the NCAA, including any officer, director or managing agent, demonstrated malice, oppression or fraud.

No date has been set to hear the NCAA’s dismissal motion.

trial in 2018 in Texas led to a swift settlement after several days of testimony by witnesses for the widow of Greg Ploetz, who played defense for the University of Texas in the late 1960s and died in 2015 at age 66.

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.

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