PHILADELPHIA — (Mealey’s) In an Aug. 29 order, a Pennsylvania federal judge announced that the National Football League and players have reached a $765 million settlement in the concussion injury multidistrict litigation (In re: National Football League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation, No. 12-2323, E.D. Pa.; See July 2013, Page 42).
U.S. Judge Anita B. Brody of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said the amount, which still must be approved once a settlement motion is filed, will fund medical exams, concussion-related compensation and a program of medical research for retired NFL players and their families, as well as certain litigation expenses. In addition to that amount, the NFL is prepared to pay court-approved attorney fees.
The judge said that although she would reserve judgment until the settlement motions were filed, she commended the parties for reaching a settlement. “From the outset of this litigation, I have expressed my belief that the interests of all parties would be best served by a negotiated resolution of this case. The settlement holds the prospect of avoiding lengthy, expensive and uncertain litigation, and of enhancing the game of football,” Judge Brody said.
Hundreds Of Suits
Former NFL players filed hundreds of lawsuits against the NFL over the long-term effects of concussions. The cases were consolidated in the District Court and assigned to Judge Brody. In two master complaints filed in the MDL on June 7, 2012, the former players claimed that the NFL has been aware for years of the risks associated with repetitive head impacts during practices and games but “ignored the risks and/or was willfully blind to the risks and/or actively concealed the risks from NFL players.”
The plaintiffs said their allegations arose “from the pathological and debilitating effects of mild traumatic brain injuries (referenced herein as ‘MTBI’) caused by the concussive and sub-concussive impacts that have afflicted former professional football players in the NFL.”
“For many decades, evidence has linked repetitive MTBI to long-term neurological problems in many sports, including football. The NFL, as the organizer, marketer, and face of the most popular sport in the United States, in which MTBI is a regular occurrence and in which players are at risk for MTBI, was aware of the evidence and the risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries virtually at the inception, but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information from the Plaintiffs and all others who participated in organized football at all levels.”
On Aug. 30, 2012, the NFL moved to dismiss the complaints, arguing that pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, the former players’ claims amounted to a labor dispute that depends on an interpretation of the terms of the applicable collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) between the players and their teams.
Before ruling on the motion, Judge Brody ordered the parties to “engage in mediation to determine if consensual resolution is possible.” She appointed retired U.S. Judge Layn Phillips as mediator.
The plaintiffs are represented by Jeannine Kenney of Hausfeld in Philadelphia; Christopher Seeger and David Buchanan of Seeger Weiss in New York; Sol Weiss and Larry E. Coben of Anapol Schwartz in Philadelphia; Thomas V. Girardi and Graham B. LippSmith of Girardi Keese in Los Angeles; Michael D. Hausfeld and Richard S. Lewis of Hausfeld in Washington, D.C.; Gene Locks and David D. Langfitt of Locks Law Firm in Philadelphia; Steven C. Marks and Ricardo M. Martinez-Cid of Podhurst Orseck in Miami; James R. Dugan II of The Dugan Law Firm in New Orleans; Anthony Tarricone of Kreindler & Kreindler in Boston; Arnold Levin of Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman in Philadelphia; Michael L. McGlamry of Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison & Norwood in Atlanta; Dianne M. Nast of RodaNast in Lancaster, Pa.; David A. Rosen of Rose, Klein & Marias in Los Angeles; Charles S. Zimmerman of Zimmerman Reed in Minneapolis; Derriel McCorvey of The Law Firm of Derriel C. McCorvey in Lafayette, La.; and David S. Casey Jr. and Fred Schenk of Casey, Gerry, Schenk, Francavilla, Blatt & Penfield in San Diego.
The NFL is represented by Brad S. Karp, Theodore V. Wells Jr., Beth A. Wilkinson and Lynn B. Bayard of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York, Judy L. Leone and Robert C. Heim of Dechert in Philadelphia and John J. Soroko and Dana B. Klinges of Duane Morris in Philadelphia.