National Football Litigation: Concussion Lawsuits Ahoy!
If you thought the lockout during the last offseason was a never-ending stream of legal process, this offseason will offer you no reprieve. In the second article on the multitude of lawsuits currently taking place in the NFL, we look at the 2,000+ player strong concussion lawsuit.
Who is suing who?
Approximately 3,000 plaintiffs, including close to approximately 2,308 named former NFL players, make up over 80 separate lawsuits now levelled at the NFL.
The number of plaintiffs has been steadily growing since the earliest cases were made. Most recently some of the leagues’ most celebrated veterans, such as Eric Dickerson have thrown their hat in with the lawsuits. The group of ex-players involved in the lawsuit are in various stages of their retirement and are from various different NFL eras. The lawsuits are also made up of the families of affected players.
While technically each lawsuit is different, they all essentially make the same claim of the NFL.
What is the claim?
The 81 lawsuits claim that the NFL was negligent in their handling of concussions suffered by players. They claim that the NFL deliberately ignored studies that revealed the link between concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
It is important to note that the players are not suing because they received concussions, that is an assumed risk. They are suing because they beleive the NFL had a duty of care to inform them of the later effects of concussions, namely, pernament brain damage.
The area of contention revolves around the creation of a group known as the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee (MTBIC) by the NFL in 1994.
The lawsuits allege that because the NFL had commissioned a study of the long term effects of concussions it was their duty to inform their players of the later risks involved. However the group’s findings supposedly did not point to a link between multiple concussions and the later development of CTE in retired players. Because of this the lawsuit claims that the MTBIC was, in essence, “industry-funded, biased, and falsified.”
The report was in complete contradiction to the other independent studies at the time that pointed to a clear link. Studies that the NFL also went out of its way to discredit and denounce.
The question remains whether or not the NFL did truly chose to hide or misrepresent their findings from the players, although it does not look good. Today, the links are considered medical fact and the NFL’s MTBIC findings almost absurd.
A master complaint for the majority of the plaintiffs was filed on Thursday the 7th of June, consolidating the lawsuits.
The full document outlining the complaint can be found here (it’s a big read).
What does this mean for the NFL?
Well, initially, money. Lots of it. Should the NFL lose some (if not all) of the cases they’ll undoubtably forced to pay for legal costs and damages. Putting a number on it right now would be nearly impossible but have no doubt it’ll be huge.
It’ll also force the NFL to take an even harder stance on player injuries to prevent concussions and its later effects. Expect more rule changes, huge fines for illegal hits and the NFL paying even more attention to how teams manage their concussed players.
There will be more money spent on educating the players of the risks inherent with the sport, so that they can make better decisions when considering retirement.
We’ll continue to keep you updated as the story progresses. One thing is certain: there will be change. Even if every single lawsuit is thrown out, there will be change.