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    Law Updates

    Head Injuries & College Football programs

    college football

    There has been a lot of
    controversy within the game of football over the past few months, but one
    of the biggest ongoing controversies has been in regards to the potential
    dangers of the sport; more specifically, the cause of concussions and long-term
    brain damage in players. It’s not just the fact that medical records are slowly
    revealing concussions to be a serious problem facing the sport of football, but
    that many universities may not have handled head injuries to their
    student-athletes properly.

    Lawsuits
    Regarding The Handling of Head Injuries by College Football Programs

    There are four schools, including
    Purdue, the University of Florida, Weber State and Pittsburg State, that are
    currently facing legal scrutiny over how they handled players who experienced
    head injuries while playing for their college football programs. 

    Lawsuits against the NCAA and certain
    conferences have been used as examples by a group of almost 100 actions
    who are seeking monetary damages on behalf of former student-athletes who
    allegedly suffered or are suffering from the symptoms caused
    by concussions. The cases originated from a national class-action lawsuit
    against the NCAA concerning concussion protocol that looks to be settled soon
    for the sum of $75 million, which would go towards funding concussion research
    and a medical monitoring program for student-athletes.

    The U.S. District Judge in charge of
    the nationwide case, John Z. Lee, allowed plaintiffs to pursue personal injury
    claims on a class-action basis as part of his preliminary approval for the
    settlement. However, those lawsuits would not be able to seek a nationwide class
    or a class that consisted of athletes from more than one NCAA school.

    This has led to 96 lawsuits that
    involve schools and conferences in all three of the membership divisions of the
    NCAA, almost all of which name the NCAA as well as a conference as the defendants.
    In cases where the plaintiff played college football for certain public schools
    in Pennsylvania or at a private school, those schools were also named in the
    lawsuits. Public schools were not named due to potential difficulties
    associated with suiting state institutions. 

    Because having 96 cases go forward
    could cause an overwhelming amount of chaos and because Judge Lee does not want
    to have a nationwide damages class, he has ordered lawyers representing
    defendants and plaintiffs alike to select two sample cases by each side from
    the 96 lawsuits that have been filed. These cases will be used to test the
    viability of the other cases. 

    The four cases that were chosen were
    chosen, according to the plaintiffs, as a representative of the 96 lawsuits as
    a whole and not on the basis of the best possible case for either side,
    although the defendants argued that two of the cases that were chosen
    represented the worst of the alleged injuries of any of the 96 cases.

    The Impact of the
    Hearing

    While the Judge’s order in the
    nationwide case resulted in the 96 lawsuits, it also made it difficult for
    plaintiffs to have their individual cases certified into a class action
    lawsuit. Without such designation, these lawsuits could only apply to their
    named plaintiffs.

    According to Judge Lee, the nationwide
    case does not provide the facts necessary to be able to conclude that a class
    action lawsuit narrowly defined in regards to size, time period and type of
    sport could never be certified against a specific school. He also determined
    that a narrowly defined, personal injury class action lawsuit against a single
    school could not be certified against the NCAA.

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