A federal judge in Chicago gave preliminary approval on January 26 to a re-worked head-injury settlement involving thousands of former college athletes and the NCAA, including a $70M fund to be put towards the future testing for brain trauma in both current and former players. United States District Court Judge John Lee praised the deal, which expanded potential plaintiffs to athletes from sports outside of football, hockey, and the typical “contact” sports we think of when we hear the word “concussion”.
“To the extent that the settling Plaintiffs and the NCAA are agreeable to these modifications or are otherwise able to address the Court’s concerns, preliminary approval of the amended class settlement is granted” wrote Lee, in his 53 page ruling.
Although re-worked, the intent of the settlement remains unchanged, with amounts going towards the damages of athletes suffering from traumatic brain injury, as well as a fund to test current and former athletes for brain injuries they may have suffered while participating in college athletics. The tests would not only gauge the extent of the neurological injuries, but could also help establish grounds for individual athletes to seek subsequent damages due to their injuries. The NCAA will also be required to toughen the return-to-play rules after a player suffers a concussion, including a new, independent Medical Science Committee, which will act as oversight in the testing procedures provided by the fund.
The NCAA admits no wrongdoing in the settlement, releasing the following statement in response to the settlement announcement:
“While we are pleased the court has provided a preliminary pathway to provide significant resources for the medical monitoring of student-athletes who may suffer concussion, we are still examining the conditions placed on preliminary approval.”
The attorney representing the athletes in this case said that he was pleased with the judge’s provisions, which scale back the NCAA’s immunity from future suits, and although the proposal would likely bar national class-action lawsuits, it will allow class actions against individual schools or in some cases, even the NCAA. Member schools will also be required to toughen up concussion management and return-to-play guidelines, and if they do not follow the NCAA lead, they could lose some legal protection granted by the agreement.
The settlement sends a message to the NCAA and member schools that concussions and player brain injuries are no longer issues that can be swept under the rug. These are very real safety problems that put players’ lives on the line and should not be ignored.
David Rapoport is the founding and managing partner of Rapoport Law Offices. In his over 31 years as a full time trial attorney, he has won numerous multi-million dollar jury verdicts and settlements in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Mr. Rapoport is a member of the invitation only American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), an association of premier trial attorneys who are dedicated to preserving the right to trial by jury. ABOTA's general mission is "to foster improvement in the ethical and technical standards of practice in the field of advocacy to the end that individual litigants may receive more effective representation and the general public be benefited by more efficient administration of justice consistent with time-tested and traditional principles of litigation." For over 20 years Martindale-Hubbell, through its Peer Review RatingsTM program, has consistently ranked David Rapoport as AV® PreeminentTM, its highest professional rating. This is a testament to Mr. Rapoport's abilities as an attorney and commitment to maintaining the highest ethical standards. Mr. Rapoport has also been selected by Thompson Reuters, another prominent legal publisher, as an Illinois “Super Lawyer” every year since the inception of the Super Lawyer program. Super Lawyer designation is limited to the top 5 percent of lawyers in a state in any given year. Since 1990, David Rapoport has been board certified* in Civil Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy ("NBTA"), the oldest and largest not-for-profit American Bar Association accredited trial attorney certification program. Attorneys with NBTA certification have proven ability in their field through specialized written examinations and meeting rigorous criteria for trial experience and ethical ratings. Mr. Rapoport has proven his currency and substantial trial experience through NBTA recertification in 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010. David Rapoport has served as a leader of the movement to encourage board certification for trial lawyers for more than twenty years. Currently he is the President of the National Board of Trial Advocacy and its parent organization the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification. He recently explained: "In this era of Wild West style minimally regulated lawyer advertising, it has never been more important for the public to have easy and reliable means of identifying members of the small fraction of practicing attorneys who truly have substantial experience trying cases. Board certification programs help consumers of legal services make more informed choices. Too many lawyers are out there claiming to have substantial trial experience when in truth they have never tried a case. Board certified trial lawyers have proven their substantial trial experience in ways the public can trust." Mr. Rapoport is a member of the President's Club and Leader's Forum of the American Association for Justice and the state trial lawyer associations in Illinois, Wisconsin and Kentucky. He is also a member of the Economic Club of Chicago. * Board certification is not required to practice law in Illinois and the Illinois Supreme Court does not recognize specialties in the practice of law.