First hearing held in players’ concussion suit against NFL
Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Apr 10, 2013 in Personal Injury
A federal judge heard arguments this week about whether the lawsuits filed by former players against the National Football League will continue in civil court. The players are seeking personal injury damages for the effects of head injuries they sustained while playing for the league. If the judge agrees with the NFL, the matters will be treated as complaints under the players' collective bargaining agreements; that would take the lawsuits out of court and send each player to an arbitration hearing instead.
The stakes are plenty big. With more than 4,000 lawsuits in play, the NFL could be on the hook for billions of dollars in damage awards if players prevail at trial.
The money is not the only issue for the players. They also want the NFL to come clean about how much and how long the league knew the dangers it was exposing the players to, and the discovery process would give their attorneys access to NFL records. The players allege that the NFL was well aware of the dangers of concussions and regular blows to the head but kept the information quiet in order to continue to promote physical violence as part of regular play.
During the hearing, the league's attorney explained that, at heart, the players have a workplace safety complaint. As such, the collective bargaining agreements should govern. One hurdle the league will have to overcome is that CBAs were not in place prior to 1964 or between 1987 and 1993.
Another hurdle, and perhaps a more important one, is that the players' CBAs do not address latent injuries. The players who are suing have suffered years after retirement from Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive disorders that progressed over time. The basis of their claim is that the NFL knew but did not reveal the long-term effects of blows to the head; if the court cannot find language in the agreements that support the NFL's argument, the cases will stay in civil court.
There was no indication of how long the court would take to decide this first question in the matter.
The Legal Intelligencer, "Former NFL Players' Concussion MDL Has Its First Courtroom Date," Saranac Hale Spencer, April 10, 2013
Carrier Management, "NFL, Ex-Players Prep For Court Battle Over Concussions," Maryclaire Dale, April 9, 2013
Our firm works with individuals on personal injury cases similar to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our Charleston, West Virginia, practice , please visit our website.