Five former NFL players filed a lawsuit on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri which names the NFLPA and former union presidents Trace Armstrong, Troy Vincent, and Kevin Mawae as defendants. The plaintiffs are Ladell Betts, Neil Smith, Anthony Davis, Christian Ballard, and Gregory Westbrooks, and it claims that the NFLPA "withheld information from the players about the risks of head injuries".
The former players are seeking financial compensation and medical monitoring for financial losses, expenses, long-term chronic injuries, and intangible losses.
The NFLPA has issued a statement in response to the lawsuit, and are obviously denying the player's claims:
"A lawsuit has been filed by two former N.F.L. players, Christian Ballard and Gregory Westbrooks, in U.S. District Court in Missouri against the NFLPA and several former NFLPA Presidents, namely Trace Armstrong, Troy Vincent and Kevin Mawae.
It erroneously alleges that the NFLPA knowingly and fraudulently concealed from players the risks of head injuries players faced by playing in NFL games and practices over the last several decades. This lawsuit has no merit and we will defend our union and our past Presidents.
The NFLPA has made the health and safety of its members a priority and the advancements in professional football on concussion education, prevention and treatment are a result of our efforts."
The player's attorneys also issued a statement following the filing of the lawsuit:
The lawsuit notes that the players paid dues to the union, which assured them their best interests would be protected. But, the plaintiffs say, that did not happen.
"We believe that the most important resource in the NFL is the players, and the most essential part of a player's body is the brain," said attorney Kevin Regan, who is representing the players in the lawsuit. "Considering the millions of dollars received as dues from NFLPA members, the NFLPA did not do enough to protect its members from traumatic brain injury."
The union also is accused of "engaging in a campaign of disinformation designed to dispute accepted and valid research regarding the connection between repetitive head injuries or concussions and degenerative brain disease; and to create a falsified body of research that the NFLPA could cite as proof that truthful and accepted neuroscience on the subject was inconclusive and subject to doubt."
This lawsuit is separate from the concussion lawsuit that has been going on with the NFL, and seems to be getting closer to reaching a finalized settlement. U.S. District Judge Anita Brody approved a preliminary settlement agreement between the players and the NFL which would lift the $675 million cap on damages.
The original settlement included $675 million for compensatory claims for players with neurological symptoms, $75 million for baseline testing and $10 million for medical research and education. The NFL would also pay an additional $112 million to the players' lawyers, for a total payout of more than $870 million.The revised settlement eliminates the cap on overall damage claims but retains a payout formula for individual retirees that considers their age and illness. A young retiree with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, would receive $5 million, a 50-year-old with Alzheimer's disease would get $1.6 million and an 80-year-old with early dementia would get $25,000.
This deal wasn't met with universal approval from all of the 4500+ players named in the lawsuit though.
Seven former players, including Alan Faneca and Sean Morey, filed a formal objection to the settlement. Their complaint focuses on the "grid," the complicated matrix formula identifying award amounts to players. As per the grid, players suffering from depression, mood changes, sleep disorders, attention deficits, etc. yet not at the stage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) at time of settlement receive no compensation (unless deceased). Their objection is also highly critical of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, who are receiving $112.5 million in fees (paid by the NFL) for a case in which there was no inquiry into NFL concealment and misrepresentation.
The NFL benefits from this deal by avoiding future legal fees and possibly payouts that Andrew Brandt estimates could be billions of dollars. They also avoid admitting liability by agreeing to this settlement with the players. Brandt makes this final note in his assessment of the settlement:
As is often said in this space, there has never been a better time to be an NFL owner. There is a team-friendly CBA in place through 2020; record long-term broadcast contracts are now kicking in and franchise values are all near or above $1 billion (and rising). Now the major litigation threat for the future is being removed. In this case, a tie is a win for the NFL.
Another concussion lawsuit was filed recently, this time against the Canadian Football League(CFL). The lawsuit was filed in Vancouver and asks for general damages, special damages, general and special damages "in trust", and punitive and aggravated damages, reports The Concusson Blog.
In the claim, Bruce was knocked out and suffered a concussion while playing for the B.C. Lions on Sept. 29, 2012 in Regina during a game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He was cleared to play on Nov. 18, 2012 and alleges he was still suffering from the effects of the original concussion and claims to have suffered further concussive hits.
Bruce also claims to have reported concussion signs and symptoms to the Lions medical personnel such as fogginess, headaches, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, memory loss, confusion, dizziness, anxiety and personality changes.
Stay tuned, because there will surely be more lawsuits in the future. The NFL's lawsuit could receive final approval in November allowing the players to start receiving payments. We will have to wait to see if Betts' lawsuit has any merit, and if the NFLPA will fight the case or attempt to settle. More players could be added, as the lawsuit was originally filed by Ballard and Westbrooks, and then the other three players joined them.