Recent news that the family of National Hockey League enforcer, Derek Boogaard (under contract for the Rangers at the time of his death) filed a lawsuit against the National Hockey League has everyone talking about the wrongful death suit and wondering exactly what it all means.

The suit, filed on May 10, contends that the NHL is responsible for the physical injuries and brain damage Boogaard sustained during six seasons as a league enforcer, as well as to blame for his addiction to prescription painkillers that ultimately took his life on May 13, 2011.

Boogaard was found dead of an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers and alcohol at the age of 28. It was also discovered posthumously that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head.

During the summer of 2011, three NHL enforcers including Boorgaard, 27-year-old Rick Rypien and 35-year-old Wade Belak died (all deemed suicides) from circumstances that many speculate were the result of occupational hazards associated with being an NHL enforcer.


If someone dies as a result of the legal fault, negligence, inattention, or carelessness of another person or entity (like the NHL), survivors of the deceased may choose to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death suit seeks to compensate the survivors’ losses.

In Minnesota, the lawsuit requires proof of pecuniary loss, which means the loss of income or other items that have monetary value and funeral expenses. This pecuniary loss extends beyond the loss of the deceased person’s earnings to any other contributions such as home or childcare, as well as the loss of comfort, companionship or love that the deceased provided.

Wrongful death claims can be brought in a wide variety of circumstances when a person is killed in an accident caused by another’s negligence. In Minnesota, for instance, wrongful death cases could include:

Work-related exposure to dangerous conditions/substances (like Boogaard)
Car accidents or public transportation accidents
Construction accidents
Medical mistakes
Product malfunction or defects
Individuals and entities such as companies and governmental agencies can be legally at fault for acting negligently (failing to act or respond within reason), and for intentional acts that lead directly or indirectly to a person’s death.

In the Boogaard family’s case, the suit alleges that, “On numerous occasions, the NHL allowed and encouraged Derek Boogaard, after suffering concussions, to return to play and fight in the same game and/or practice.”


In Minnesota, those eligible to file a wrongful death claim are surviving family members such as a spouse, children, parents, grandparents, or siblings of the deceased.


Wrongful death cases can be complex and time-consuming, and they require substantial resources. Unlike a personal injury claim, all wrongful death claims are brought to the court by a trustee, who is usually a family member appointed by the court to represent the closest relatives of the person who died.


All wrongful death claims in Minnesota must be brought to the court within three years of the individual’s death.

The Boogaard suit against the NHL was filed just in time to beat a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in the state in which it was filed. The Boogaard family had previously filed a lawsuit against the NHL Players’ Association last September that was ultimately dismissed as the result of a missed deadline for filing a grievance. The judge ruled that the family had waited too long to act.


If you have lost a loved one as the result of someone else’s negligence, your first step should be to contact a Minnesota law firm you can trust. The experienced attorneys at Meshbesher & Spence will help you navigate the complexities of a wrongful death claim – competently representing your family with integrity.