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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.

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

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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