Both sides of the current NFL concussion legal battle squared off earlier this week in a Philadelphia courthouse in an episode that would decide whether the potential billion dollar litigation will be allowed to move forward.
The gathering took place at the U.S. District Court before Judge Anita B. Brody and was meant to allow the NFL and the plaintiffs’ attorneys to each present their case for what should happen to the thousands of pending concussion lawsuits. On the one side was the NFL, which claimed that that all the cases filed against the league should be dismissed because of a collective bargaining agreement in place with players which requires arbitration in the event of a dispute.
On the other side were attorneys representing thousands of players and their families who all believe the cases should be allowed to move forward. Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that the matter should remain in federal court and out of arbitration because the NFL is accused of engaging in fraud, something that would invalidate the collective bargaining agreement signed by some of the plaintiffs.
After the NFL’s lead attorney, Paul Clement, made his pitch for tossing out the case, Judge Brody asked several pointed questions about exactly why the league believed the player’s claims should be thrown out of court, requesting specific examples. Judge Brody also seemed to agree with Clement’s concession that the power of collective bargaining agreements was weak with regard to the hundreds of players involved in the suit who were never party to such an agreement.
Judge Brody also refused to accept the answer that the NFL has recently done a lot to help injured players, including establishing a fund for their care. Judge Brody asked to know more about what had happened in the years before the fund was established when players were obviously suffering but had little in the way of support or assistance from the NFL.
Several players and their families attended the hearing, including Kevin Turner, a former New England Patriots player now suffering from ALS, a degenerative brain condition he says was caused by repeated blows to the head. The widow of Ray Easterling, a former player for the Atlanta Falcons, was also in attendance and later wept at a press conference expressing her optimism about the case. Easterling committed suicide in 2012 after years of suffering from severe depression and dementia, also thought to have resulted from concussion-related injuries. Pope McGlamry client and former Green Bay Packer Dorsey Levens was also in attendance.
The whole thing only lasted 45 minutes, but the decision that Judge Brody reaches is an important one. Brody is empowered to throw the entire matter out of court or let all the suits continue. A middle ground is also possible, and could result in the judge asking the plaintiffs to decide on several test cases that will be tried first to test the waters for the nearly 4,000 other players.
Pope McGlamry P.C., currently represents former professional football players and their families for injuries and damages sustained as a result of suffering concussions while playing football, and is actively involved in the current concussion litigation. If you or someone you love has been injured by a sports-related concussion, you may be entitled to compensation.
Source: “Crowded Courtroom for N.F.L. Lawsuit,” by Ken Belson, published at NYTimes.com.
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