According to a recent article on Forbes.com, the National Football League is now facing a multitude of lawsuits that challenge how the League has handled the issue of player concussions. The article says that as of August 1, 2012, 3,236 former NFL players have been named plaintiffs in a total of 124 separate lawsuits.
The 100+ suits allege that the NFL and some helmet manufacturers purposefully concealed information about the neurological effects of repeated blows to the head. Several suits say that even if the League was unaware of the potential harmful results of brain trauma that it should have known and is thus liable as a result.
The lawsuits represent a threat to the NFL as it will have to spend millions to defend against claims from the former players. The NFL cannot take the risk that a jury awards one player a fortune, opening up the floodgates from hundreds, if not thousands, of others. The League will also be left to deal with bad public relations resulting from the suits. Former stars will parade through courtrooms telling tales of their injuries and the damage those injuries caused physically as well as to their personal lives. If the cases ever go on to trial even more details may emerge about what exactly the NFL knew and when and how it reacted to any information regarding injured players.
If the players succeed in persuading a judge to let their case go forward, they will likely argue that the NFL knew about the dangers of head trauma for years but did nothing to help protect players. An even more difficult hurdle to clear will be players proving that the concussions they sustained while playing in the NFL are responsible for their problems. The League’s lawyers will claim that any health issues are the result of trauma sustained earlier, as far back as high school or college.
A trial is not assured, as the NFL will instead attempt to have the cases dismissed. The NFL hopes that the responsive pleading it is expected to file by the end of August will put a stop to all the lawsuits. The League will likely argue that the collective bargaining agreement preempts the filing of concussion lawsuits under federal labor law, because the issue of medical care of players is not subject to litigation.
Also awaiting word is the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) along with most of the individual NFL clubs which have thus far largely avoided being named as defendants in concussion lawsuits. They are hoping not to be dragged into the potentially massive litigation. The reason they have not yet been involved more is that without further word of the trial moving forward, the current plaintiffs’ arguments are not as strong against the NFLPA and NFL members clubs as their claims are against the NFL itself.
For now that means all 3,236 plaintiffs are waiting to hear if they survive the NFL’s motion to dismiss. If the motion is denied, then the plaintiffs will move the case forward, serving discovery requests on the defendants, including the NFL. If, at that point, the plaintiffs receive information that reveals the NFL member clubs and/or the NFLPA were culpable in concealing information concerning concussions, the litigation will likely expand to include them as defendants. For now, everyone waits.
Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison & Norwood, P.C. is currently investigating concussion injury cases on behalf of former professional football players and athletes, as well as those who may have suffered from a concussion caused by other forms of trauma such as an automobile accident, trucking accident or a slip and fall. If you or someone you love has been injured by a sports-related concussion, you may be entitled to compensation.
Source: “Why Most NFL Teams And The NFLPA Have Escaped Being Named Defendants In NFL Concussion Litigation,” by Darren Heitner, published at Forbes.com.