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Former Bears Player Wins Lawsuit

July 23, 2000

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) _ Merril Hoge’s attorney said a Lake County jury’s $1.55 million award to the former Chicago Bears fullback sends a message to NFL teams.

Hoge contends he was cleared to play by the team doctor too soon after suffering a concussion, forcing his retirement from the NFL in October 1994.

``The importance is that the jury rejected the idea of the way that football players and other athletes are treated for concussions,″ Hoge attorney Robert Fogel said of Friday’s verdict. ``They sent a message to coaches at all levels.″

Hoge, now 35 and an ESPN commentator living in Pittsburgh, contended that former team doctor John Munsell returned him to play too soon, risking re-injury, and had not warned him of the dangers of continuing concussions. He said he still suffers from headaches and sensitivity to light.

The civil jury awarded Hoge $1,450,000 for economic losses and $100,000 for pain and suffering, but nothing for permanent disability.

Munsell’s attorney, William Rogers, said the award will be appealed. He said Hoge has already received $1 million from a personal injury insurance policy, $250,000 from a Workmen’s Compensation claim against the Bears and additional money from an NFL injury settlement.

Hoge suffered 12 concussions over 19 years of football in school and the NFL. He played seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and one with the Bears.

``He is successful with ESPN and he is living with his disabilities,″ Fogel said.

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